By Schnarr, J.W. on October 13, 2017.
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.”
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