Anonymous Twitter accounts range from the nasty to the nauseating
What's unique in 2014 is the use of anonymous social media accounts to promote potential candidates, and attack or mock opponents. They range from nauseatingly sweet (Terra Turtle, Sudbury's Next Mayor), the nasty (Hulk Joe Cimino, Mr Pierre Poutine), and the (occasionally) hilarious (Sudbury News Now, Rabbitford).
Some accounts seem to be created for a specific purpose or campaign, then dry up when the issue is no longer on the public agenda. For example, when some groups were pushing for another audit of Greater Sudbury Utilities in 2013, a twitter account (mrpierrepoutine) actively messaged reporters hinting at wrongdoings at the GSU.
When the efforts were discredited, the account went quiet, and as of Monday, all the tweets were deleted.
Similarly, when Ward 1 Coun. Joe Cimino ran for the NDP nomination in Sudbury, an anonymous supporter of Cimino's opponent, Paul Loewenberg, set up Hulk Joe Cimino. The twitter account generally mocked Cimino, but occasionally, an out-of-character tweet would emerge, only to be deleted a short while after.
Since Cimino won the nomination, however, the account has taken on a more partisan flavour, with the anonymous Hulk taking shots at Justin Trudeau, and retweeting people like NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Sid Ryan, the head of the Ontario Labour Federation, and Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume, a strong supporter of organized labour.
On the sickly sweet side of ledger, an anonymous account with the (optimistic) handle of Sudbury's Next Mayor began tweeting in December, promising to unveil themselves after Jan. 2, when candidates could officially file for office.
While promising transparency and openness — and apparently being blind to the irony — the anonymous account holder promised such items as “better thinking” and “fresh thinking.”
Examples? Allowing stores to open when they want, but only if they have unionized employees. A smaller council, but with higher pay. Support for a new Sudbury Arena and the Sudbury Wolves.
But after promising to unveil themselves, the account went quiet Feb. 4. Two weeks later, another anonymous account became active, also promising a mayoral run. Similar in tone and substance, but obviously not meant to be taken seriously, the turtle account includes altered images of a puppet turtle skiing, eating, swimming, posing beside the Big Nickel, etc.
But the same saccharine message is there: “I want to learn from other candidates, and they might learn a thing or two from me,” and “Parks and trails like this are such an important part of our city.”
Thankfully, it's not all nastiness and niceness in the anonymous twitterverse — there's humour, too. For example, Sudbury News Now is hit or miss, but has plenty of genuinely funny tweets.
“City of #GreaterSudbury abandons complicated new security plans and instead gives tasers to all city counsellors and staff,” read one.
“New study by @SudburyCofC concludes economic benefits from Ring of Fire are being held back because of lack of mining activity there,” read another.
“GreaterSudbury city council votes to rename classic Stompin' Tom Connors song to 'Greater Sudbury Saturday Night,' ” read a third.
Another account — Rabbit Ford — also purports to be from a future candidate for mayor, but pokes fun at his turtle opponent. The avatar is a rabbit on its backside drinking whiskey. The tweets include a reference to the city branding fiasco, in which a new slogan omitted the word “Greater” from “Greater Sudbury,” sparking opposition from some politicians from outside the old city.
“Enough of this Greater Sudbury garbage,” tweeted the rabbit. “When I'm mayor we are gonna call it ChanmerburydaValliston.”
However, while the anonymous accounts are interesting for politicians and the media, none have attracted a hoard of followers. The most successful is Sudbury News Now, which had 466 followers as of Monday afternoon. Sudbury's Next Mayor had 113, the only other account with more than 100 followers.