Vision Vancouver Quickly Called Out on Twitter Name Squatting

Vancouver VotesGillian Shaw on the Vancouver Sun blogs reports on some questionable social media tactics being used by Vision Vancouver against the Non-Partisan Association (still the most ironic name in political parties). We wrote previously about Twitter use in the Canadian federal election. Accounts like FakeSteveHarper and FakeStephanDion were claimed by private citizens who, whatever their own personal biases, operated them as jovial critiques of their real counterparts.

Vision Vancouver claimed the account “PeterLadner“, the NPA’s mayoral candidate, and began operating it as a spoof and linking to a Vision site. The page was changed to clarify it’s “fake” nature only after the Sun called them out in an article today.

“We’re not trying to pass it off as Peter Ladner,” said Ian Baillie, spokesman for Vision Vancouver and Ladner’s opponent, Vision mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson…”Clearly, it is a spoof, I don’t want people to think we are trying to impersonate him because we are not. We are trying to point out in a funny, humorous way some of the ridiculous things he has said.”

Ladner’s campaign spokesman Michael Meneer said “the tone of the Twitter thing is really what is unfortunate. Poking fun at Peter and using language that is disrespectful is really inappropriate.” Meneer said if anyone on Ladner’s campaign did something like that, they’d be fired.

The NPA does operate it’s own Twitter account of NPAVancouver, providing third-person updates of various NPA candidates. Vision mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson appears to man his own Twitter account (Gregor08) with regular updates from his Blackberry. Both parties have been making use of Facebook to organize supporters, and YouTube to promote their messages.

Given that Twitter didn’t even exist during the last municipal election, social media is still new territory with grey areas. The core mistake on Vision’s part was co-opting Ladner’s name and using it without clear disclosure. A FakePeteLadner account would have been much more ethical. But such is also a lesson for prospective political candidates: people will be looking for you on social media sites, so claim your name whether you use it or not. DJ, writer, and heavy-tweeter Buzz Bishop calls it:

“To me, writing silly things on twitter, using the alias of a competitor, is akin to writing letters to the editor of a paper with same. FAIL.”

The Vancouver Municipal Election runs Saturday, November 15, 2008, or try beating the rush on the advanced polling days of Nov 8, 10, or 12. Everything you need to know is on the city’s Vancouver Votes page.