Posted by: Nathan M. | July 1, 2009

Some Humour

I don’t know who else will find this article hillarious, but I surely did and thought that I would share it with you. Enjoy! It’s from the National Post, and can be found at this link.

Political leaders are used to being called all sorts of terrible names. Only in the age of Web 2.0 do they pay for the privilege. Until today, anyone rolling their mouse over the smiling, wholesome photo of the prime minister and his family on his Facebook page, for instance, would find that Stephen Harper’s face had been labeled “Hitler” by one of his, er, “friends” — an appellation that has clearly lost a great deal of meaning since it became the website’s term for any old shmo who signs on to your virtual social network.
When I called the Prime Minister’s office to discuss this with them, a communications officer sounded surprised to say the least. Within an hour, the Hitler “tag” — as the technology is called where “friends” can put labels on the faces of Facebookers’ photographs – was removed (not before we captured a screen-grab, pictured above). But the security hole that permitted the slander was still there: the PM’s Facebook site, which his staff are paid to ensure promotes their boss’s diligent, patriotic work and highlight his virtues, had not yet turned off its “Tag this Photo” feature (which can be deactivated), allowing users to add whatever tags they wanted to the Harper Family portrait — at least as of the time of this writing (anyone can add tags; only the Facebook site’s owner can remove them). I added one just to be sure. If they haven’t yet fixed the problem, rolling your mouse over Stephen Harper’s right eye will tell you he is also known as an “Avid National Post Reader” (which I’m told he may well be, so I believe this doesn’t count as official mischief, which would be terribly unprofessional of me).

Have a colourful sobriquet you’d like to apply to the Prime Minister? You can probably still go ahead and paste it on his face yourself, since the PMO seems rather unconcerned by the fact that their leader’s official web presence, visible to all the world, visited, no doubt, by the presidents, prime ministers and potentates of his friends-list (who are perhaps having a good LOL about it) is wide open to vandals with the worst motives. A read through the photo comments section of the Facebook page of PMHarper finds supporters complaining about the distasteful tags being applied to the prime minister. Back in December, Julie Wu was asking “Can someone remove those tags? Not only is it immature, but extremely rude to the PM of Canada.”

Weeks before that, in October, Nathan Lynes pleaded with the PM’s Facebook minders: “Update the tags on your picture. Don’t allow anyone to do this.” Kelly Fitzgerald had noticed the same thing and “tried e-mailing his handlers,” to alert them to the problem, “to no avail.” Even before that, in September, Craig Drebit was asking “Can anyone remove the insulting tags on this photo?” The entire photo comment is a timeline of Conservative supporters galled at their main man’s page being defaced by troublemakers. But then, the comment section itself is also evidently unmonitored and unmoderated, since there’s plenty of abuse being doled out on our nation’s leader there, too, with critics calling Harper a redneck, a motherf—er, and “un gros criss d’incompétent,” which I’m only able to translate three-quarters of, but is clearly not a nice thing to say. It get worse: One commenter appears to be making an indecent suggestion about Harper’s 10-year-old daughter, Rachel.
This, to emphasize again, is the official page of our country’s leader. Even many of those Canadians who don’t vote Conservative are bound to agree that having our prime minister called atrocious names on his very own Facebook page is not a becoming brand exercise for a self-respecting nation. To be fair, Barack Obama’s page appears to allow dissent, too: one commenter suggests the U.S. president should “shut the f–k up, and stop destroying our economy” and another dismisses him as “another puppet.” The president’s Facebook operators do appear to have had the sense to shut off the photo tagging feature.
So did NDP leader Jack Layton’s people. And Alberta premier Ed Stelmach’s. And B.C.’s Gordon Campbell’s. And Ontario’s Dalton McGuinty’s. Those working for Michael Ignatieff, however, seem as blasé as Harper’s team, since you can also tag the Liberal leader’s photo – of him and his wife, Zsuzsanna — with whatever nonsense you care to.

In Saturday’s edition of the National Post, I had a column suggesting that the social media technology of Web 2.0-the stuff of Facebook, Twitter, etc.-would likely fail to deliver on the promise of a more intimate relationship between voters and representatives that sanguine democrats had hoped for. Today’s hyper-disciplined government communications would be too restrictive for most politicians to truly connect to the public. I’m not sure if Harper, Obama and Ignatieff are proving me wrong and demonstrating an admirable, if inexplicable free-speech philosophy when it comes to their own, professionally produced sites. Or if, quite the opposite, they haven’t yet figured out how dangerous such a careless approach to their on-line personae can be-both to them, and to the country they represent.

National Post

(Thanks to NP reader and commenter Renatus for the tip)

Photo: Screen grab from Facebook.com.

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