The Twitter account was made to look similar to a Facebook page set up by the Liberals. (ABC News)
Twitter has taken down an account set up by WA Labor on the eve of the Cottesloe by-election, framed to look like it was being run by the Liberal Party but actually seeking to mock Opposition Leader Mike Nahan.
The account was given the name “The LOOP WA”, featuring an acronym commonly used to represent the Leader of the Opposition, and used nearly identical branding and imagery to a Facebook account set up by the Liberals in the same name.
Labor then used the account to run advertisements — so that tweets even appeared in the feeds of people who were not followers — pointing people to a website where they could “find out about WA Liberal Leader Mike Nahan”.
Tweets from the account were run as advertisements to increase their audience reach. (ABC News)
That website, titled “Meet Mike Nahan”, claims the Liberal leader will cancel Metronet, increase TAFE fees and cut penalty rates.
The only indication the Twitter account was actually set up by the Liberals’ political opponents was a statement in the biography that it had been authorised by assistant Labor state secretary Matt Dixon — something that would not have been visible to users who only saw the promoted tweets.
By Monday morning, the tweets from the Labor-run account had been removed.
The account was then suspended by Twitter, following a complaint by a Liberal staffer, for violating the social media platform’s rules relating to impersonation.
Claims account may be illegal
The Liberals indicated they would be complaining to the Electoral Commission about the account, believing it could potentially be in violation of the law.
“At first I thought ‘this is pretty juvenile’, but it is more serious than that,” Liberal electoral affairs spokesman Simon O’Brien said.
“We do need some clarity about whether this sort of dishonest behaviour is also illegal and it is something the Electoral Commissioner needs to examine.”
WA’s Electoral Act prohibits the publication of any material in relation to an election that is “likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of the elector’s vote”, although Labor insisted the account was not in breach of the law.
On top of the website and Twitter account, Labor also placed placards around Cottesloe polling places on the day of the by-election pointing people to the Meet Mike website, with no obvious reference to it actually being a Labor campaign.
That was despite Labor choosing not to run a candidate in the Cottesloe by-election, which David Honey of the Liberals won comfortably.
Labor also emailed its members on Saturday, encouraging them to “share the truth about Mike Nahan” vita the Meet Mike website.
Premer, Labor defend campaign
Premier Mark McGowan backed the Meet Mike campaign, saying it was bringing attention to the Liberal Party’s “damaging policies”.
Mark McGowan threw his support behind his party’s campaign despite the Twitter setback. (ABC News: James Carmody)
“The Liberal Party in WA is decrepit and dysfunction and doesn’t really stand for West Australian values,” Mr McGowan said.
Assistant Labor State Secretary Matt Dixon, who authorised the website and Twitter account, said it was clear the campaign had hit a nerve with the Liberals.
“Senior Liberals have privately congratulated WA Labor on the clever tactic of defining Mr Nahan,” Mr Dixon said.
“Western Australians have a right to know what Mike Nahan actually stands for.”
But Dr Honey, who will be sworn into Parliament as early as this week, mocked Labor’s efforts to place placards around polling places.
“Campaign 101 is you never mention your opponent’s name and here they are, the Labor Party is out advertising it,” he said.
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