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As election campaign rumbles on, many candidates ensnared in social media gaffes

OTTAWA — Social media accounts give election candidates unparalleled visibility — and as all the major parties know, that isn't always a good thing.

On Labour Day weekend, the Conservatives were forced to drop Toronto-Danforth candidate Tim Dutaud after he was found to have posted videos of himself making crank calls on YouTube — in one, he posed as a mentally disabled man; in another, he feigned an orgasm.

According to Steve Ladurantaye, head of news and government partnerships at Twitter Canada, such discoveries are unsurprising now that social media has been around long enough that candidates have a decade or more of material stored online.

"You've had nine years of Twitter to tweet things with," he said.

"Only a couple of weeks of those were during your campaign when you're actually thinking about what you're tweeting from a political standpoint."

Dutaud's incident is just the latest in a series of questionable or embarrassing online posts by candidates that have been pounced on by media and opponents during the first weeks of the federal election campaign.

— The Conservatives showed the door to Montreal candidate Augustin Ali Kitoko after he shared an album of photos from NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's Facebook page.

— Another Tory candidate in Montreal, Gilles Guibord, was forced to resign over sexist comments he allegedly made in online comments section of the Journal de Montreal newspaper.

— A young Liberal candidate in Alberta, Ala Buzreba, resigned after four-year-old tweets surfaced of her telling someone they should have been aborted with a coat hanger and another to "go blow your brains out." She apologized for the comments.

— An NDP candidate in Nova Scotia, Morgan Wheeldon, was forced to resign after suggesting in a 2014 Facebook post that Israel was engaged in "ethnic cleansing."

— Soheil Eid, a candidate in Joliette, Que., apologized twice for a Facebook post that drew a parallel between the words of Mulcair and comments attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's infamous propaganda minister.

— Wiliam Moughrabi, candidate in the Montreal riding of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, had to erase online comments that were deemed violet and misogynist in nature.

— VirJiny Provost, a young Bloc Quebecois candidate in Megantic-L'Erable, embarrassed her party after a survey she answered came to light. Asked what she would need in the event of a nuclear attack, Provost wrote she'd bring "her cellphone, a penis and chips."

The list of blunders is likely to grow as there are still several weeks left in the marathon campaign.

Ladurantaye said what strikes him most about the campaign is not what he calls "individual bozo moments," but rather the ability of social media to magnify incidents and even change the campaign.

He pointed to Finance Minister Joe Oliver cancelling a speech at a men's-only club amid a social media backlash, or the video of now-former Conservative candidate Jerry Bance caught in 2012 in a secret CBC video urinating in a homeowner's coffee mug.

In the past, such incidents would have made the news for a few days but not necessarily caused resignations or event cancellations, he said.

"Things that would have boiled and disappeared now have a more immediate fallout."

Fannie Olivier and Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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