Not that Harper: Twitter reaches out to wrong man

Stephen Harper, Harper Reed Image copyright AP/Organizing for Action
Image caption Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, guy with Twitter account Harper Reed

When election time looms, politicians must prepare themselves for both the risk of losing office, and the online storm that follows. And yet, as Harper Reed found out, when keyboard warriors pick a fight, they don't necessarily check to make sure they've hit the right target.

In the wake of yesterday's Canadian election, numerous Twitter users responded to Stephen Harper being ousted from office by sending their mocking condolences to the account @Harper. Unfortunately for them, the ex-Canadian Prime Minister's official address is @pmharper, and the subject of the mistaken tweets was given a golden opportunity to have some fun.

"I'm a pretty self-centred person," Reed says jokingly. "How that manifests itself is that I believe I'm the only Harper that's ever existed, and if someone tries to jump into that world, even the Prime Minister, I don't like it."

Three years ago, Harper Reed a prominent hacker, technological engineer and Twitter early-adopter, started to notice tweets criticising him for political decisions in Canada.

The Chicago resident has also received tweets aimed at the author Harper Lee and Harper's Bazaar magazine.

As the Canadian Prime Minister became more well known, the misdirected tweets increased, and Reed made sure to respond to as many as possible.

"From the beginning it was funny as normally someone's really mad at you," he tells the BBC.

"When you reply they suddenly turn around. The other funny part is that when I respond, everyone replies in a very Canadian way, apologies, apologies, apologies. I try to be positive, I don't correct them. I'll just act like we're in some fantasy world, where I'm Prime Minister," says Reed.

The tweets presented welcome relief when he was stressed at work or bored, but this week was different.

"Yesterday got a little out of hand, but it's been happening for the past week. Like any election, there's a fever pitch beforehand," says Reed laughing.

One user revelled in the news of Prime Minister Harper's loss, bidding him adieu by declaring "good riddance." Reed responded by writing "I refuse to leave. You can't make me."

Another user taunted the Canadian politician, asking "how do you like them apples." Reed chose comedy once again, replying "I love them. Apples are great."

Some people got in on the act with tweets like: "Thanks for being such a great Prime Minister all those years while living in the USA and working on computer stuff at the same time."

The experience has not made Reed better versed in world affairs.

"I have no idea what's happening in Canada ... People are very sensitive about politics, and people have enough negativity in their lives. I want to have fun, and they hopefully have fun too."

Though Reed enjoyed his brief time in the political spotlight, he is ready to return to normality.

"At this point I now know that I'm no longer prime minister. And I'm happy about that."

by Olivia Lace-Evans

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