Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says he has acted on concerns that his official YouTube videos used tags intended to make them appear in online searches for information on misogynistic men’s groups.
Tags are descriptive keywords that YouTube video creators can append to their work. These keywords help the platform show its users videos on topics that might interest them. YouTube tags are normally hidden from public view, but they can be examined using special software or other methods.
A report by Global News on Thursday said 50 of Mr. Poilievre’s most recent videos included tags with the keyword “#mgtow,” an acronym for “Men Going Their Own Way,” an online movement made up of anti-feminists who attempt to cut women completely out of their lives. The broadcaster quoted expert opinion that the movement overlaps with more aggressive forms of “male supremacy.”
Liberals, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, soon accused Mr. Poilievre of attempting to promote himself to online extremists.
“I took responsibility and corrected it as soon as it became known to me,” the Conservative Leader told the House of Commons during Question Period on Thursday. Mr. Poilievre did not elaborate on what actions he had taken, and his office did not respond to questions from The Globe and Mail.
He was reacting to rhetorical barbs from Mr. Trudeau.
“Mr. Speaker, the choice made by the Conservative Leader in reaching out to extremist online groups and pulling in anti-women, misogynistic groups for his own political gain is one that he will have to answer for,” Mr. Trudeau told the Commons. “Women across this country want to know why he allowed this to happen and want to see him take responsibility for it.”
The Prime Minister noted that Mr. Poilievre had won praise for his use of social media and “clever videos” during his successful bid for the Conservative leadership earlier this year. In one of the most widely circulated of those videos, Mr. Poilievre drew an extended analogy between Conservative ideology and reclaimed wood boards.
“We all marveled at his admiration for old wood,” Mr. Trudeau said, referring to that video. “But what we did not see was his choice to include deliberately reaching out to far-right organizations, including hateful anti-woman organizations, to try and advance his own political gains. He has played too close to the line with extremists for far too long.”
Global News reported that it had used publicly available software to verify the existence of the tags, and that it had checked the findings against the videos’ source code. But Global said the tags disappeared hours after the organization sent a list of questions to Mr. Poilievre’s office.
Mr. Poilievre’s social media reach is considerable. In addition to his 251,000 YouTube followers, the Ottawa-area MP has 425,000 followers on Twitter and 577,000 followers on Facebook. Mr. Trudeau has 6.2 million followers on Twitter and 8.6 million followers on Facebook.
In the House of Commons on Thursday, Mr. Poilievre said he condemns all forms of misogyny. He suggested that Mr. Trudeau is, himself, guilty of various forms of misogyny, adding that the Prime Minister was responsible for “firing” Jody Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous attorney general. And he said Mr. Trudeau has a history of wearing “racist costumes” – a reference to images that surfaced during the 2019 election campaign of the Prime Minister wearing dark makeup on his face, years before he entered politics.
“We condemn misogyny always and everywhere and we ask the Prime Minister to finally do the same,” Mr. Poilievre said.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned from the federal cabinet in February, 2019, after The Globe reported that the Prime Minister’s office had tried to influence her handling of criminal accusations against the engineering and construction company SNC-Lavalin.
Later in the day, Conservative MP Arnold Viersen said Mr. Poilievre had handled the situation well.
“I thought he did okay. He took credit, or took responsibility for it, and got rid of it – said, hey, it’s unacceptable. I wish the Liberals had that kind of reaction when they have problems like this.”
Independent MP Alain Rayes, who left the Conservative caucus in protest of Mr. Poilievre’s confrontational style of politics, said on Twitter that he did not think the Conservative Leader had added the keywords himself. “But he must fire the person who did this immediately. This is the minimum expected from a leader,” he wrote.
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