Conservatives call off probe into misogynistic tags on Poilievre’s YouTube channel

Click to play video: 'Trudeau, Poilievre spar over misogynistic YouTube tag during question period'
Trudeau, Poilievre spar over misogynistic YouTube tag during question period
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland reacted on Thursday to a Global News investigation that found Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s YouTube channel included hidden misogynistic tag #mgtow to promote videos. Freeland hoped political leaders acknowledge that threats faced by women and girls, especially from marginal groups, are real, and that they should ensure all of their actions keep women safer and not put them in more danger – Oct 6, 2022

The Conservative party has called off an internal probe into how a misogynistic phrase was quietly used to promote Pierre Poilievre’s YouTube videos, as the political pressure mounts on Poilievre for an explanation and apology.

Global News reported Thursday that the phrase – #mgtow, or “Men Going Their Own Way” – was hidden in hundreds of Poilievre’s videos since early 2018.

The #mgtow movement includes men that attempt to cut women completely out of their lives, but anti-hate researchers have noted it can overlap with other forms of “male supremacy,” including the involuntary celibate or “incel” movement.

The tag helped promote Poilievre’s videos — such as his recent tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, videos from his leadership rallies and his messages on inflation and affordability — but was not visible to viewers.

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After Global News approached Poilievre’s team on Tuesday about the videos, they scrubbed the tag from his videos and began an internal probe. At the time the tag was first used, in March 2018, Poilievre was an opposition MP with only a handful of staff.

But by Thursday afternoon, the Conservatives had called off their search, claiming it was impossible to know who inserted the tag into the videos’ metadata.

“(Poilievre) has confirmed with current staff who were working with his office in 2018 that they did not add the tag. When Global News brought it to his attention, Mr. Poilievre had the tag immediately removed and condemns the group in question along with all misogyny,” wrote Anthony Koch, a spokesperson working with Poilievre’s team, in a statement.

Click to play video: 'Freeland reacts to Poilievre’s YouTube channel use of hidden misogynistic tag'
Freeland reacts to Poilievre’s YouTube channel use of hidden misogynistic tag

“According to Youtube records, the tag in question was added in early 2018 and it has remained there since that time. Because Mr. Poilievre has had many staff upload videos who have passwords over the years, including in 2018, his office is unable to determine who exactly added the tag.”

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Poilievre was under pressure Thursday to explain how the hidden misogynistic phrase was used to promote his YouTube videos over the last four years, with Liberal politicians – including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – demanding an apology from the Conservative leader.

“The Conservative leader has been purposefully using his videos to appeal to far-right, misogynistic online groups. These are anti-women movements and they have had devastating real-life consequences,” Trudeau said during a testy question period exchange Thursday.

“I call on the Conservative leader to stand in this House, take responsibility and apologize.”

“I condemn this organization, and I corrected the problem as soon as it became known to me. I condemn all forms of misogyny, including when the prime minister fired the very first female Indigenous attorney general,” Poilievre shot back, in reference to the 2019 SNC-Lavalin scandal and former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Canadian security and intelligence officials have warned that violent misogyny is considered a national security threat and a form of “ideologically motivated violent extremism.”

Click to play video: 'Gould demands answers from Poilievre over misogynist YouTube tag: ‘An apology is not enough’'
Gould demands answers from Poilievre over misogynist YouTube tag: ‘An apology is not enough’
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“Of course, we on this side reject all misogyny and all acts of extremism, and that is how we will always conduct ourselves over here,” Poilievre said when pressed on the issue in the House of Commons on Thursday morning.

University of Waterloo instructor Carmen Celestini said while “incels” – who have been linked to recent violence in Canada, including the 2018 van attack in Downtown Toronto – and the #mgtow have different philosophies, there is some “overlap” between the communities.

“Incels predominantly believe that monogamy should be forced and that women should be forced to marry men and have relationships. Where the ‘men going their own way’ feel that they need to be separate and work on their own masculinity,” Celestini told Global News in an interview.

“They do engage together online, though, in the ‘manosphere.’ Like they will have conversations in a community that way, but different ideologies.”

In a statement to Global News on Wednesday, Poilievre’s office said that he was unaware of the #mgtow tag in his videos “which were initially set up and automated to accompany each video” since March 2018. The office couldn’t say who initially set up the tag, however.

Click to play video: 'Incels are targeting the “next generation of extremists” online'
Incels are targeting the “next generation of extremists” online

Three senior Conservative sources described Poilievre as very hands-on when it comes to his posts and messages on social media. The sources agreed to discuss Poilievre’s approach on the condition they not be named.

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“He’s hands-on with everything. Pierre has always approved every social media post,” said one source.

A fourth source close to Poilievre agreed that the Conservative leader is intensely involved in scripting his social media messages and personally approves most of them. But the source said Poilievre is not involved in the actual mechanics of posting, and was unaware of the tags on the videos.

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