Politics

African soccer gets inadvertent Twitter bump from Canadian military

Canadian military members tweeting with the hashtag #CAF found themselves over the last few days inadvertently cheering on African soccer players as Olympic fever takes hold on social media.

New Twitter emoji sees Canadian military supporters unknowingly cheering African soccer players

These women are not members of the Central African Republic's Olympic soccer team despite the hashtag #CAF's transformation in this Canadian Military News post on Twitter. (twitter/@CanMNews)

The Canadian military has told its various commands and members on Twitter to stop using the hashtag #CAF — at least for the duration of the Rio Olympics.

Senior public affairs officials at National Defence say the social media site has released an emoji specifically for the Games that turns the hashtag into the flag for the war-torn Central African Republic and links to a site for soccer results.

The new coding not only applies to current tweets, but all previous ones as well.

The department's social media group has been in contact with Twitter to figure out if it can be changed and whether it's a permanent or temporary fixture.

One proposal is that Twitter may be able to geotag posts so that Tweets not coming from Africa will avoid having the flag slapped on the hashtag, but it's uncertain that can be done quickly.

A spokesman at National Defence confirmed the instruction has been given, but couldn't say how long it might last.

It's not clear why the hashtag #CAF, which also refers to the Confédération Africaine de Football representing 54 members, prompts an emoji for the flag of the Central African Republic. Officials at Twitter did not respond to a request for comment by CBC News.

In this official recruitment Twitter account for the Canadian Armed Forces it appears as though this welder is somehow linked to the Central African Republic's Olympic soccer team. (twitter/@ForcesJobs)

With 207,300 followers, @CAF_Online, which encourages everyone to "Celebrate Africa," dwarfs the official @CanadianForces account which has 53,700 followers.

The Central African Republic — with a population of 4.6 million — has been a country in turmoil almost since its independence from France 1960.

It has been mired in civil war since an Islamic insurgency emerged in 2013.

Possible peacekeeping mission

With United Nations peacekeepers in place, the country has an outside chance of being one of the nations where the Liberal government could consider sending a Canadian military presence.

Defence Minister Harjitt Sajjan is due to conduct a tour of a handful African countries this month and make a recommendation to cabinet some time later this year.

The Central African Republic does not maintain a diplomatic representative in Ottawa, but a spokeswoman for the combined embassy in Washington says it was not aware of the mix-up and that the mission was focused on "more important files."

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