Anti-Tory comments disappear from Harper's sponsored Instagram posts

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has become the first federal party leader to advertise on Instagram, but many of the comments on his first three sponsored posts have disappeared.

Harper is the first federal party leader to advertise on Instagram

Each of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's three sponsored posts focuses on child care and includes the line, 'Laureen and I know that childcare decisions are best left with the real experts, Mom and Dad.' Comments critical of the Conservatives have disappeared. (Stephen Harper/Instagram)

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has become the first federal party leader to advertise on Instagram, but many of the comments on his three sponsored posts have disappeared. 

Facebook, which owns the photo-sharing social media platform, said the Tories started advertising through Harper's Instagram account last Thursday.

While the Tories, the NDP and the Liberals all have active Instagram feeds, Meg Sinclair, a spokeswoman for Facebook Canada, said Harper's account is the only one that has launched ads to date.

The Tories are running three sponsored photos, all of which focus on child care. There are two photos of Harper interacting with small children and another of him playing Xbox with his son, Ben. All three include the caption, "Laureen and I know that childcare decisions are best left with the real experts, Mom and Dad." 

Targeting wrong crowd?

Many of the early comments on the sponsored posts were critical of Harper and his government's policies. Those comments have since disappeared.

Sinclair said advertisers, like the Conservatives, have the option of deleting comments on sponsored posts.

Georgiana Laudi, who works in web marketing, took a screen shot of some of the now-missing comments and posted it to Twitter. She said she didn't do it for political reasons, but simply out of interest in web marketing campaigns. 

Laudi said there were more than 160 comments on one of the photos when she took the screen shot. As of Wednesday afternoon, just 13 comments remained. 

Laudi said she didn't see a single positive comment when she scanned the post.

"I went through [the comments] entirely because they were too entertaining [not] to read," Laudi says.

The missing comments include lines like "Instagram usually gives me inspiration. This just turns my stomach."

Another, referring to the controversial anti-terrorism law that passed earlier this year, said "Thanks to Bill C51 Stephen automatically appears on every Canadian's Instagram.

Laudi said she thinks the negative reaction is partly because advertising on the platform is relatively new. While ads have long been a part of Facebook and Twitter, sponsored posts on Instagram were launched in Canada just last November.

"You expect to see faces you know or beautiful things and then all of a sudden you see a politician, it hits you like a ton of bricks," said Laudi.

She also said she thinks Harper might be targeting the wrong crowd with his Instagram ads.

"They shouldn't be posting to a platform where the average age is much younger than the average supporter of Harper. That was probably a bit of a misstep."

The sponsored posts have gained hundreds of likes, but have few positive comments.

Ads are targeted to users based on gender, age and interest, according to Sinclair. If a user doesn't want to see a particular ad, they can "hide" it from their feed and won't receive another ad from that campaign again. 

'Inappropriate submissions'

Some of the comments still visible on the sponsored posts hint at the content of those that were deleted. On the photo of Harper and his son, one comment reads, "Wow. So many angry people on Instagram, cussing up a storm, insulting people, and acting like trash all around."

Stephen Harper plays Xbox with his son in one of the sponsored photos the Conservatives posted on Instagram. (Stephen Harper/Instagram)

Another comment on the same photo says, "By all these comments I can see Canada is in real trouble. The comments left are not only offensive but left by uneducated people who can't even engage in a civil discussion on politics." 

Only about 20 comments remain on that photo, all supportive of the Conservatives.

Conservative party spokesman Cory Hann told CBC News the party does delete comments from its Instagram feed. The party's reasons for doing so, according to Hann, include profanity, spam, irrelevant or redundant content, hateful content, and attacks or complaints against individuals.

"We reserve the right to delete any inappropriate submissions, and block future posts from those who submit inappropriate material," Hann said in a written statement.


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