Smear cam­paign tar­gets can­di­date

Coal­dale may­oral can­di­date de­nies us­ing fake Face­book ac­count

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - J.W. Sch­narr LETH­BRIDGE HER­ALD — COAL­DALE

Coal­dale may­oral can­di­date Jack Van Rijn ad­dressed what ap­pears to be a co-or­di­nated so­cial me­dia at­tempt to de­rail his cam­paign, say­ing he has “no time” for smear cam­paigns.

On Thurs­day, Van Rijn spoke about a se­ries of posts made to his pub­lic Face­book page, in­clud­ing one which ac­cused him of post­ing mes­sages to the page us­ing a fake ac­count.

Van Rijn de­nied hav­ing any in­volve­ment in the is­sue other than delet­ing the of­fend­ing post.

“I’m ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed,” he said. “Peo­ple who truly know me, know bet­ter than that.

“My his­tory in Coal­dale — I want noth­ing but good for Coal­dale. I have no time for smear cam­paigns.”

Fol­low­ing an Oct. 4 post on the page thank­ing all in­volved with the Coal­dale and District Cham­ber of Com­merce “All Can­di­dates Fo­rum,” a post from an ac­count with the name “Fred Smith” praised how Van Rijn han­dled him­self.

Van Rijn posted a brief note of thanks in re­sponse.

Later, a post ap­peared un­der Van Rijn’s thank-you from an ac­count with the name “Wil­son McQueen,” claim­ing Van Rijn had made the Smith post him­self us­ing a fake ac­count, us­ing an alias con­nected to Van Rijn.

Van Rijn said he deleted the com­ment from McQueen when he found it.

“I had a rude com­ment pop up on my so­cial me­dia plat­form from some per­son in Aus­tralia,” he said. “I found it very of­fen­sive, and it had noth­ing to do with my plat­form or my page, other than to run a smear cam­paign.”

On Oct. 9, a Face­book page named “Coal­dale Truth” posted a screen­shot of the post, as well as screenshots of the Fred Smith ac­count, claim­ing Smith was a Van Rijn alias and ques­tion­ing why the McQueen post had been deleted.

How­ever, it is im­por­tant to note there are a num­ber of in­con­sis­ten­cies with the “Coal­dale Truth” ac­count that bring its ex­is­tence as a source of le­git­i­mate in­for­ma­tion into ques­tion.

For one, the “Wil­son McQueen” ac­count ap­pears to be a du­pli­cate ac­count whose only vis­i­ble ac­tiv­ity is the ad­di­tion of generic in­ter­net im­ages and a sin­gle “like” — the Coal­dale Truth Face­book page. There does not ap­pear to be any other so­cial me­dia pro­file for this per­son.

Like the McQueen ac­count, the Smith page also fea­tures two generic im­ages and no other ac­tiv­ity.

The screen cap of the Smith ac­count — which is sup­posed to be ev­i­dence of Van Rijn’s in­volve­ment, might in fact be ei­ther an al­tered im­age or a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt at mis­lead­ing view­ers.

The im­age pro­vided on Coal­dale Truth shows a Face­book ad­dress for the page which is dif­fer­ent than the one on the Smith ac­count — with no ex­pla­na­tion for the dif­fer­ence.

In fact, it is easy to change the ad­dress on a Face­book page by any­one who has ac­cess to it.

At­tempts to con­tact the owner of the page were not re­turned, and Van Rijn him­self was hes­i­tant to speak about the is­sue over fears it would lead to neg­a­tive at­ten­tion to his cam­paign.

“It’s a smear cam­paign against me that I want no part of,” he said. “I did not cre­ate any so­cial me­dia page.”

Ear­lier this week, Cal­gary in­cum­bent mayor Na­heed Nen­shi pub­licly stated he is be­ing tar­geted by fake so­cial me­dia ac­counts with the in­tent of smear­ing his name and de­rail­ing his own cam­paign.

Van Rijn said he is aware of the is­sue in other races.

“A sim­i­lar thing is go­ing on in the City of Cal­gary, where false pro­files are be­ing set up on so­cial me­dia,” he said. “The same thing is hap­pen­ing.”

Fol­low @JWSch­nar­rHer­ald on Twit­ter

Jack Van Rijn

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