Pierre Poilievre’s YouTube channel included hidden misogynistic tag to promote videos

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Pierre Poilievre’s official YouTube videos included a hidden tag appealing to misogynistic online movements that Canada’s intelligence agencies view as a danger.

A Global News analysis of 50 of Poilievre’s most recent YouTube videos showed that they included a tag — hidden from viewers, but not from the videos’ publisher — used by a misogynistic online movement. The tag helps promote Poilievre’s videos among those circles, and signals to YouTube what users might be interested in the Conservative leader’s messaging.

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The tag, #mgtow, is an acronym for “Men Going Their Own Way” — a mostly-online movement comprised of anti-feminists who attempt to cut women completely out of their lives. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the movement overlaps with more aggressive forms of “male supremacy.”

It’s difficult to quantify the size of the movement, and its overlap with other forms of misogyny both online and in the real world. But online spaces connected to the “manosphere” have proliferated in recent years.

Global News verified the tag was used on the videos using publicly-available software and checked it against the video’s source code.

Within hours of Global News sending a detailed list of questions to Poilievre’s office, the tag disappeared.

Poilievre’s office said the Conservative leader was unaware the embedded tags existed “and therefore was unaware they were used for uploads on his YouTube channel over the last” four and a half years.

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Freeland reacts to Poilievre’s YouTube channel use of hidden misogynistic tag

“The embedded tags were immediately removed once his office became aware of them. Obviously, Mr. Poilievre condemns misogyny and all forms of online hate,” wrote Sam Lilly, a spokesperson for Poilievre, in a statement to Global.

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Poilievre’s office could not say who originally included the tag in the Conservative leaders’ videos in 2018, or why.

Before being scrubbed, the #mgtow tags were used in every one of 50 videos reviewed by Global News — including a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, Stephen Harper’s endorsement during the recent Conservative leadership contest, and videos featuring allies like Sen. Denise Batters and former leader Andrew Scheer.

YouTube tags work in a similar way to hashtags on other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Unlike hashtags, they are not visible to the user, but they help users to discover the videos through search and recommendations.

Most of the tags on Poilievre’s videos are related to Canadian politics and include phrases like “Stephen Harper,” “Justin Trudeau,” and “House of Commons.”

The videos also included the tag “Rona Ambrose,” the former Conservative interim leader who retired from politics in 2017 — corroborating Poilievre’s team’s explanation that they have been deploying the same tags in their videos for years.

YouTube videos from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau include basic tags about Canadian politics, and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh doesn’t appear to use tags in his videos. Poilievre’s videos’ use of #mgtow — and another tag for “Ben Shapiro,” the U.S. right-wing commentator — appear to be unique among federal leaders.

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Poilievre’s digital campaign savvy

Several people close to the Poilievre leadership campaign have independently brought up his digital savvy as a key component to his decisive Conservative leadership win on Sept. 10. The Carleton MP has more than 445,000 Twitter followers, 573,000 on Facebook and 250,000 on YouTube.

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Poilievre routinely uses those platforms — along with interviews conducted by friendly internet-based figures — to “go around” the mainstream press. Those in Poilievre’s orbit believe it is an effective way to get his message across without submitting them to journalistic scrutiny.

But he also uses those platforms to identify potential voters and volunteers. One source, who spoke to Global News at the time on the condition they not be named, called Poilievre’s ready-made database “very important” to his victory.

The source added that at the start of the campaign, “We (already) had people across the country who had expressed interest in something Pierre said.”

Poilievre’s digital outreach efforts have occasionally courted controversy. In November 2020, Poilievre published a petition suggesting “global elites” were pushing for a “great reset” to wrest more control from citizens.

The petition was a reference to the “Great Reset,” a World Economic Forum (WEF) document that envisioned how various governments and economies could emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. The document became the target of numerous baseless conspiracy theories — but also the target of conservative attacks.

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The petition, which has since been removed from Poilievre’s website, garnered tens of thousands of signatures — as well as valuable personal information that could be used for political campaigns.

“Male supremacy” and violent attacks

MGTOW adherents advocate for separating entirely from relations with women. The Southern Poverty Law Center has noted that there is a significant overlap between “male supremacy” and other, more extreme, movements.

“As both white supremacy and male supremacy are driven by fear of the perceived loss of white male status, the ideological tenets that animate these hateful worldviews intermingle and bolster each other,” the SPLC wrote.

“Similarly, these manifestations of hate and extremism exist on a continuum with more widely accepted ‘mainstream’ political agendas and social norms.”

In Canada, the issue of “male supremacy” and like-minded movements is increasingly on the radar of security and intelligence agencies.

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“Extreme racist, misogynistic and anti-authority views combined with personal grievances can result in an individual’s willingness to incite, enable or mobilize to violence,” the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) wrote in their 2021 Public Report on national security threats.

The perpetrator of the 2018 van attack on Toronto’s Yonge Street — which killed 11 people, including nine women — was inspired by the “involuntary celibate” or “incel” movement. The suspect in a 2020 stabbing at a North York erotic spa has been charged with terrorism offences for his alleged incel motivation.

Poilievre, the convoy and “odious” far-right figures

It’s not clear who first included the #mgtow tag in Poilievre’s YouTube videos, or why the tag has been embedded in the Conservative leaders’ videos going back years. Poilievre’s office did not immediately respond to Global’s follow-up questions.

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But this isn’t Poilievre’s first interaction with fringe movements in Canada.

The Conservative leader has drawn criticism for his support of the convoy protesters that paralyzed downtown Ottawa and blockaded border crossings in February — protests which led the Trudeau government to take the unprecedented step of invoking federal emergency legislation.

Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act will soon face scrutiny by an independent judicial commission. But Poilievre’s embrace of the protest movement has also faced continued scrutiny.

His chief rival in the Conservative leadership race, Jean Charest, criticized him for defending protesters in open defiance of the rule of law. The line of attack didn’t stop Poilievre from winning a decisive first-ballot victory in the contest.

Poilievre also chose to walk with James Topp, an activist with connections to convoy figures who have marched across Canada to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The Conservative leader also drew criticism for posing for a photograph with Jeremy Mackenzie, the de-facto leader of a far-right group called Diagalon who was recently arrested on a Canada-wide warrant for alleged weapons offences. Canada’s Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) labelled Mackenzie as one of the key “anti-government” figures during February’s convoy protests, according to documents published by the left-wing Press Progress website.

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At the time the photograph was taken, Poilievre said he didn’t know who Mackenzie was. But last month, the Conservative leader forcefully denounced Mackenzie and his followers as “odious” “dirtbags,” after Mackenzie joked about raping Poilievre’s wife.

“This kind of garbage has no place in Canada,” Poilievre said in a statement.

“No one should face this abuse.”

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