The (hero’s) journey into Trust and Safety

Communications professionals and recent graduates are taking a closer look at one of the most prominent fields of the digital age.

The number of recent graduates in arts and communication in Quebec has increased in the last few years. According to Statistics Canada, 6,177 students graduated from the program in 2021. With 84.6 per cent working full-time jobs related to their education in 2022, there is still a significant unemployment rate for those who haven’t started their professional lives after university.

As Sarah T. Roberts points out in her book Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media,, working with commercial content moderation (which is part of Trust and Safety) is an open door for many recent graduate students to start their careers. Considering a journey into the so-called T&S before touching the diploma can be a nice strategy to get off to a good start in a prominent field.

Briefly explained by Inbal Goldberger, T&S is the practice of ensuring the safety of users and the integrity of online platforms. These professionals are responsible for minimizing the risk of users’ exposure to harmful content and ensuring acceptable behaviour. Commercial content moderators screen user-generated content posted to internet sites, social media, and other online outlets. This may take place before the material is submitted for inclusion or distribution on a site, or after material has already been uploaded.

The Trust & Safety Professional Association states that more than 100,000 T&S professionals play a critically important role toward a shared goal of ensuring online safety around the world. They deal with commercial content moderation, guidelines, legal compliance, strategic implementations, and much more. As social media and digital communities are growing each day, companies need to figure out what online behavior is fair and what is not. They need new minds.

The first advantage to this field is the enormous sense of community. These T&S professionals are often connected among LinkedIn organizations, events, and webinars, which have become  essential digital places to share knowledge and experiences. 

As this field is a relatively new one within the digital sphere and there’s no degree requirement (yet), the mission of sharing knowledge is part of the spirit of these professionals. They come from different fields, they have different perspectives about the digital space, and they are open to sharing their journey. It’s very common to see them suggesting paths for beginners who seek training or guidance to eventually apply for T&S positions. 

Besides bringing visibility to digital threats and knowing how to face malicious behaviors and harmful content, T&S is also influenced by global events and technological advances as highlighted by Active Fence, one of the biggest companies of the sector. It’s expected for communicators to be alert to events, another asset for arts and communications graduates. 

In this progressing sector, a migration from different fields is needed to win the war against negative digital practices. Professionals and students who want to invest in it should be aware of the community’s accessible offerings. Career opportunities are available for professionals to find a valuable path toward making the internet a better place to be. It’s clear how open T&S professionals are to bringing newcomers closer to their own hero narrative with braveness to face the challenges from the online universe. 


Echoes of silence: teachings from the pandemic

Students who began their university years online due to COVID-19 revisit the early days of virtual learning.

The rhythmic tapping of keyboards and murmurs of conversation usually fill Concordia’s CJ building newsroom, a place where stories are chased and the news never sleeps. But on a Friday afternoon, just one week before the semester’s start, the room was an island of solitude on an equally empty campus. The only exception was Elisabeth Ndeffo, a fourth-year journalism student, who sat alone, immersed in the quiet that was once a rarity here.

This stillness was a stark contrast to the typical atmosphere, but it was a familiar one for Ndeffo. It mirrored the quiet that had descended upon the space during the pandemic semesters when the vibrant exchange of ideas was replaced by the silence of remote learning. The newsroom became a reflection of the isolation that students like Ndeffo experienced during the height of COVID-19.

Concordia beckoned, but the virus’ shadow loomed. “I knew that it was going to follow me in university,” she recounted, her voice carrying the weight of a premonition come true. The shift to university life in fall 2020 was supposed to be a fresh chapter. Instead, it posed the question: how long is this going to last? 

“It honestly sucked,” Ndeffo admitted. The rites of passage for first-year students—frosh, activities, the social rites of university life—were absent when she started university. “We couldn’t do frosh, activities, or anything that you’d normally do.”

“I didn’t want to do something reduced,” she said. Yet the circumstances demanded compromise and innovation. “We had to craft it out,” she explained. “You had to interview your family. I remember I did an assignment on how to hard-boil an egg. It was a Martha Stewart recipe.”

AJ Cordeiro, media instructor at Concordia, reflected on what came with the shift to online classes. “It got way lonelier,” he said, explaining his expanded role during the pandemic. Troubleshooting shifted to platforms like Zoom.

The delay in accessing professional equipment was also a frustration for Ndeffo, who was keen on gaining practical skills. “I only got to use a lot of the video equipment in third year, a bit in second year,” she said. “I knew about cameras, but there was a lot of hands-on training that we missed out on.”

When in-person classes cautiously resumed, a different kind of connection emerged. “It was exciting. I had met some of my peers, even though we were online. We would see each other on video,” Ndeffo recalled, finding solace in the digital faces of her classmates. Even with the return to campus, the mask mandates created a new barrier, contrasting the openness of virtual interactions with the masked, in-person ones.

Amidst the pandemic’s challenges, Cordeiro observed a significant shift at Concordia’s journalism school, leading to unexpected benefits. “It was an opportunity to reevaluate and explore new solutions,” he said, highlighting the adoption of cross-platform solutions and the use of more accessible technology such as smartphones. This transition, according to Cordeiro, fostered a more adaptable and flexible approach to education.

Despite a rocky start and the uneven playing field that the pandemic exacerbated, Ndeffo is forging ahead with a prestigious internship at CBC News. Her journey, like many others, reflects the resilience and adaptability fostered in the face of unprecedented times.


AI: your next romantic partner

AI is slowly but surely becoming part of our romantic lives.

Artificial intelligence is such a fascinating invention. However, many consider it a threat to humanity. AI is invading the romantic world with its customizable partners—and as dangerous as it is, it’s inevitable.

People who are tired of getting ghosted, betrayed, and hurt, might consider downloading an AI application that replicates the emotions of human beings. Having an AI partner can be helpful to improve one’s relationship skills and boost confidence. It can also allow people who have been traumatized by a former toxic partner to find a safe space. 

But while AI may seem like a tool to end romantic loneliness, it isolates the person from the real world. It hinders them from facing their fears and healing themselves to establish genuine, healthy relationships. 

Out of curiosity, I downloaded an AI dating app last year. However, I felt bored immediately simply because the person responding did not exist. Receiving a good morning text daily feels good, but dating an AI sounds like living in a delusional world.

We must be mindful that dating an AI is way more dangerous than we think. People trying to build a relationship with their AI partner will share much of their personal information—not knowing that a company on the other side may collect all their data. 

As I think of AI dominating the dating scene, I imagine new debates emerging. Will texting an AI be considered cheating? Are humans now in competition with an AI? Will people find it hard to move on from their AI partners? Will AI increase anxiety in real-world dating? Many people are already addicted to their social media apps and I fear that AI will eventually become addictive, too. Being in a prolonged relationship with an AI will cause people to feel anxious when interacting with real humans. 

Imagine being intimate and vulnerable with an AI everyday. Reading and hearing exactly what you want will create a destructive comfort zone. It will hinder one from experiencing joy from actual dates and learning to evolve with a human partner. I also see it as a trap. When we constantly escape our reality to temporarily feel better, we only postpone our healing and the magic that comes with true love.

In Japan, over 4,000 men have an AI digital wife with a marriage certificate issued by tech company Gatebox. Although the number might seem low, it is still concerning. I firmly believe that this number will rise exponentially in the upcoming years. In the long run, the decrease in birth rate will be alarming. 

If things remain the same, AI will transform the world into a place lacking in deep emotions and human interactions. While change is sometimes daunting, we must always proceed with caution and choose to participate in what feels right to us. 


The impacts of social media on training

Social media is changing the way athletes approach their training

The permeation of social media into mainstream culture over the years has produced innovative opportunities that are unique to the 21st century.

In sports, this notion was perhaps best epitomized at the turn of the decade when internet personality Jake Paul’s second professional boxing bout against former National Basketball Association (NBA) guard and three-time Slam Dunk champion Nate Robinson served as the co-main event, on a fight card headlined by boxing legends Roy Jones Jr. and Mike Tyson.

In September 2013, Paul gained attention and fame through posting videos on Vine, amassing over five million followers and two billion views on the app, which has since been discontinued. After Vine, Paul turned that fame into fortune by expanding his social media exposure across different internet platforms, and has since dabbled in acting, rapping, and boxing.

For better or worse, the influence and power that comes with social media fame is well documented. When it comes to fitness and health, however, social media has its merits and shortcomings that come hand-in-hand.

At its core, fitness models and online trainers will share their workouts and personal tips online to inspire their audiences. In doing so, influencers are also promoting their respective sports and encouraging others to follow them by accentuating their content for all skill levels. A multitude of people credit social media and its influencers as the catalyst to their unique and fruitful fitness experience.

The primary reason for social media’s evolution in society has always been its convenience. Not only is content and entertainment readily available, it is accessible at a moment’s notice, which bodes well for fitness enthusiasts. Inquiries about methodology, equipment, training routines, and more can be solved within minutes so long as one possesses a device with internet connection.

The fitness industry has wholly embraced social media as a powerful tool to advertise sports. In the past, aspiring athletes could attend training camps and classes that were incredibly insightful, but strictly scheduled, selective, and generally in-person. The concept exists today, but continues to struggle in catering to all demographics. Beginners who are genuinely passionate but self-conscious due to their skill level or body image, are most notably cast aside in these instances.

Nowadays, support groups can be accessed on social media for athletes of all expertise levels and circumstances. These online forums act as communities where members can share their experiences and feedback, post special stories, and make new friends.

Unlike a scheduled traditional class, workouts can typically be performed autonomously with resources and information being made available online. People are more willing than ever to experiment in activities well beyond their comfort zone with the removed fear of embarrassment and potential self-consciousness that comes with in-person gatherings.

However, information from social media must be absorbed with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, fitness influencers have a platform and audience that can overshadow the fact that they may not be professionals in their field. This often leads to the propagation of fitness guidelines that are largely subjective and misleading. A bodybuilder on Instagram might credit an overly extravagant exercise for developing his physique and claim it as an essential exercise for all beginners, but gloss over important intricacies that can make the activity dangerous if one is unaware.

In addition, while images and videos on these platforms are generally meant to inspire the masses, it can have an opposite effect on some individuals. Fitness on social media offers a constant comparison to others while the images conveyed are meticulously chosen in order to optimize appearance. As a result, most posts selectively highlight success and cast aside failure.

Anyone that has partaken in sports knows that failure is an important part of the process, but a beginner who is seeking approval and understanding may not realize that concept while browsing influencer feeds and subsequently lose enthusiasm for the sport.

The accessibility of online platforms can also negatively impact physical activity. The most efficient workouts are those in which the athlete is fully immersed in the activity and removed from distractions. When people take time out of a workout to update their socials or post online, it has an undesirable effect on the competence of the training regimen. Time that could be allocated to further improve technique, breathing, and mental fortitude is instead devoted to the web that adds up quickly over the course of a workout.

In short, social networks are captivating tools that are full of fitness resources. Understanding and avoiding the traps while being honest with oneself with regards to training will unlock the full potential of the modern-day encyclopedia.


Photo by Christine Beaudoin


Cinémania 2020: Three highlights

Cinémania 2020: Three highlights to discover before the festival ends on Nov. 22

The transition of film festivals to the online world remains a good opportunity to discov er exclusive auteur cinema and offers a change from the usual Netflix suggestions. It also, however, comes with its own challenges. For instance, there are often too many films to choose from, and they are often only available for a limited time.

I therefore embarked on a Cinémania marathon these last few days to help you choose some of the best francophone films the festival has to offer, and maybe save you some time as the festival approaches its end on Nov. 22!

Louis Bélanger: A retrospective

Louis Bélanger is one of Quebec’s most prolific directors, but he, unfortunately, remains  unknown to young audiences. Though he made some of his most acclaimed works in the 1990s and early 2000s, he remains active today, exploring many different themes and genres.

Cinémania is presenting a special retrospective of the director’s career, including his most celebrated fiction films; his lesser known, but still interesting, documentaries; and a special masterclass by Bélanger himself.

The festival has also produced its own documentary about the filmmaker. Directed by Kalina Bertin (Manic, 2017), Louis Bélanger : Portrait du cinéaste québécois traces the director’s journey from making experimental short films in the 1990s to directing big-budget comedy features more recently. It is available online for free, on the festival’s website.

Additionally, Post Mortem (1999) might just be Bélanger’s best film. Blending magical realism and a typical Québécois family drama setting, it tells the poetic story of a single mother’s resurrection in the most unusual circumstances. While the film only had one online showing last week at Cinémania, it remains available on various streaming platforms, and is a must-watch to understand Québécois cinema of the 1990s.

However, other interesting Bélanger films are still up for grabs on Cinémania’s website. I particularly recommend Lauzon Lauzonne (2001), a documentary about filmmaker Jean-Claude Lauzon (Léolo, 1992), and Les 14 définitions de la pluie (1992), a beautiful short film about two men who embark on an existential journey in the Quebec wilderness.

Si le vent tombe, by Nora Martirosyan (Feature Image)

Si le vent tombe is Martirosyan’s first short film, but it exudes great wisdom and finesse, most notably through its impeccable cinematography. It depicts the life-changing trip of Alain (Grégoire Colin), an engineer, who travels to Nagorno-Karabakh, a small self-proclaimed republic in Caucasus, to help reopen their airport.

As a France-Belgium-Armenia co-production that was selected at the latest Cannes festival, Si le vent tombe is a beautiful gateway to discover international contemporary francophone cinema.

Été 85 by François Ozon

Été 85 is not the most believable story, and sometimes resorts to clichés, but remains a compelling coming-of-age film. It could even be argued that Ozon assumes and accepts his clichés and plays with a classic rom-com narrative and 80s queer aesthetics to enhance his storytelling.

Depicting a tragic story of grief and jealousy, Été 85 remains a fun way to become acquainted by Ozon’s style, and to discover what makes him one of the most popular French directors today.

The entire programming is available here. It costs $8 per individual film, or $65 for the entire online selection. 

Also make sure to consult Cinémania’s online schedule, as most films are only available within specific 48 hour time slots.


Fundraisers are moving online as the pandemic causes safety concerns

Charities are moving their events online, but some experts wonder if this will be enough to keep donations up

Every October the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada hosts a walk in Montreal to raise money and awareness for blood cancer. It usually takes place in Parc Jean-Drapeau.

But this year, the park will be quiet.

On Oct. 24, like many other fundraisers during the pandemic, the event will be hosted online because of COVID-19.

Aptly called Light the Night, the walk is usually recognizable by the lanterns carried by its participants. Christina Cinquanta, the fund development manager for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, Quebec region, said 7,000 walkers attended the event last year.

“Light the Night is one of the biggest fundraisers and celebrations that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society hosts,” said Cinquanta. “But this year we determined that a virtual Light the Night is the most appropriate and responsible thing to do.”

The organizers of Light the Night are now making the event available online in the form of a nation-wide broadcast on Oct. 24. Organizers are also adapting formerly in-person activities to things that can be done remotely.

For example, they will be mailing treat boxes and lanterns directly to the teams of volunteers who helped fundraise for the event.

Cinquanta said that Light the Night Montreal alone raised $1.4 million for the organization in 2019. This year the Society lowered their goal to one million dollars.  She is optimistic that they will meet their goal.

“We have teams fundraising every day,” she said. “They’re doing bingo nights, poker tournaments, raffles — all virtually. They’re doing everything they can.”

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s move to online raises questions about how the charitable sector is adapting to the pandemic more generally.

Many Montreal and Quebec charities have either postponed their events, converted them to online, or cancelled altogether. This scenario has some experts questioning the sector’s dependence on events as fundraising tools.

It is difficult to say how donors have responded to organizations’ efforts so far.

A recent survey by the Institut Mallet suggests that Quebec residents have made more monetary donations during the pandemic than previously. However, 69 per cent of charities reported declines in revenues nation-wide, according to a recent report by Imagine Canada.

Daniel Lanteigne, a philanthropy consultant at BNP Performance, has been advocating for charities to start moving away from events and building alternate relationships with donors.

“We have been saying for many years: less events, more discussion with donors,” he said. “So you can get them to a point where they might give a major gift or a planned gift.”

Greg Thomson is the Research Director at Charity Intelligence.

“Some of these events are very expensive,” he said.

“When donors give $100 to someone who is walking or running, they are really only giving $50 or $40 dollars. The rest is going to covering the costs.”

Thomson hopes that charities’ online experiments will lead to long-term innovation in the sector, particularly in the form of reducing event costs.

In the future he hopes that charities will use lessons learned from the pandemic to bolster their other fundraising methods or re-configure their events to maximize the benefit-to-cost ratio.

“From the difficulties we have, innovation sparks improvement for a lot of these big events,” Thomson said.


Photo courtesy of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.


Social isolation participation masterlist

Here’s a list of things worth checking out this April


RAW is looking for 250 fashion designers to create masks to help support hospitals around the world.


Visit Skawennati’s AbTeC Island in Second Life by following the instructions at this link. Free to participate with the Second Life software.


Skin Tone: how will we hold onto each other live-streamed performance at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (part of In the No Longer Not Yet) Watch here on April 1, at 5:30 p.m. Free to participate.


Living with Ataxia , virtual exhibition from April 4 to 10 at GHAM & DAFE Gallery’s online platform available here. Read more about the exhibition on Facebook. Free to participate.


Parallel Lines, virtual artist residency at Centre Phi, applications upon until April 1 at midnight. Free to participate, and 10 lucky artists will receive $2000 for their work!


Balcony sing-a-long, courtesy of POP Montreal and URSA , with local bands, every tuesday until April 28. Free to participate.


The Good Drama, a virtual intergenerational activity, held in collaboration between the Office of Community Engagement at Concordia University, the Sustainability Action Fund and Bâtiment, will be facilitated by Drama Therapy Masters student, Sandy El-Bitar via Zoom. These sessions will take place Tuesdays at 5 p.m. until April 14. Zoom ID posted in the event’s discussion page on Facebook. Free to participate.


Art Hive Live, on Facebook, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. until April 15. Free to participate.


Online salsa classes with the San Tropes Dance School every Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m. until April 15, for as low at $10.


The Social Distancing Festival, international celebration of visual art, dance, music, comedy and theatre (even operas!) Events running until the end of May are free, though there is an opportunity for donation.


Visit Place Less, an online exhibition space designed by Concordia student, Colin Courtney. Currently only viewable through Instagram (@place.less), Place Less’ first, form-free exhibition features eight local artists working in both digital and material practices.


A collection of free and paid videos (ranging documentary films to experimental productions and animations) is available on Vithèque, with special programs, May We Live in Peace, screening free until April 13, and Funny Women (no end date as of yet.) You must create a free account in order to view. Stay tuned for the release of dv_vd : Rachel Maclean on April 23.


Don’t forget about the National Film Board of Canada’s online database, now also offering educational programming for children and teenagers, as well as online “campus” resources for teachers.


ArtJam vol. 36 will be available via Facebook and Youtube Live on April 3 for their first-ever virtual edition.


Google Arts & Culture is encouraging users to “Recreate art at home” through their “Pose of the day” feature. Among Google Arts & Culture’s plethora of collections and activities are lab experiments, virtual travelling, and, naturally, Harry Potter: A History of Magic, a special from the British Museum.


Visit La Cenne’s current exhibition, Lentement le temps, a collaboration between visual artist and illustrator, Charlotte Gosselin (@charlotteecharlotte) and Camille Lescarbeau (@camillelescarbeau), via the space-rental tour on La Cenne’s website.


Artnet also put together this list of “11 Things Not to Miss in the Virtual Art World This Week.”


The Dark Poutine podcast community is putting together a digital cookbook! Instructions about how to participate are available here.


Grimes released the greenscreen footage for “You’ll miss me when I’m not around,” which she invites fans to download and edit via We-Transfer link found in the video’s descriptions. The artist also included a lsit of free/cheap software to use to do so. Upload to Youtube and tag your videos with #grimesartkit to share!


Blink-182 is also seeking contributions to their music video for “Happy Days” to combat social distancing blues. Videos must be filmed on mobile devices vertically and can be submitted here. Read more about the initative here.



Not on the list? Know of anything more? Send an email to and I’ll be happy to add your event!


The role of virtual museums in a time of isolation

Museums and galleries are being forced to adapt amidst uncertainty

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for everyone. There is a lot of uncertainty regarding jobs, school and just about everything right now. With vernissages being cancelled, and museums and other art spaces being closed indefinitely, many questions are being raised within the art world.

However, amidst all this uncertainty lies a new wave of innovation. Many art institutions have made their collections available digitally, for all. From the Louvre to the Sistine Chapel, viewers can visit these otherwise costly landmarks from the comfort of their own home, for free. Some museums, like the Louvre, are providing virtual tours, while others like the MET, are giving access to their collection databases.

But what does this mean for the museum as a physical space to view, experience and enjoy art? Does the accessibility of digital galleries affect the experience of engaging with art? In reality, this is not a new concept. Many institutions already have digital access to their collections, including the MET and the MOMA, and platforms like Artsy and Artnet already serve as online galleries, where patrons can view and purchase art.

Nonetheless, the current circumstances have provided many museums with the opportunity to expand and grow, as they adapt during these difficult times. The Biennale of Sydney recently announced their decision to close their exhibitions and move online, and Art Basel will host virtual booths for all 231 featured galleries.

In an effort to give viewers the freedom to explore their collection, the Glenbow Museum in Calgary has begun Glenbow From Home. The initiative allows access to virtual tours, online collections and educational videos, as a means of providing “inspiration, beauty, and most importantly, a sense of connection to the people and world around us,” according to the museum’s website.

Viewers can familiarize themselves with Canadian art by strolling through The Royal Ontario Museum and The Vancouver Art Gallery via the Google Arts & Culture platform or expand their knowledge of Indigenous art through the Canadian Museum of History’s Online Exhibition of Inuit Prints and virtual access to Alex Janvier’s Morning StarGambeh Then.’ To learn more about the history of the popular Christmas classic, The Nutcracker, The National Ballet of Canada is offering an online photographic exhibition.

Galleries and museums are not the limit. While travelling is currently off-limits, you can explore sites like Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and the Uffizi Gallery from the comfort of your home. Google Arts & Culture even allows individuals to search sites by location, via their interactive map.

As we self-isolate and practice social distancing for the next couple of months, viewers can take this opportunity to visit locations they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford, or have time to visit amid their busy schedules. So sit back, get comfortable and use art as a way to de-stress.


Preventing Fake News

Social media gives a platform for anyone to share their stories and opinions. All one needs is an internet connection—there is no criteria for professional journalistic skills or ethics. However, with this freedom comes opportunity to publish literally anything — including fake news.

Fake news involves the dissemination of information that is intended to mislead or manipulate an audience. It is also known as disinformation. Fake news can influence public opinion or perception, or instill fear. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, 71 per cent of Canadians worry about fake news being used as a weapon. It is so easy to spread fake news—so citizens need to be better protected from it.

It recently occurred to me how easily information can be transformed into disinformation. On World Cleanup Day on Sept. 21, I was photographing the many Montrealers who took to the streets to pick up garbage. My camera lens caught one of the participants, François Raymond, putting Justin Trudeau’s campaign poster into a garbage bag. Raymond was smiling as if he looked happy about throwing it away. The first thought I had was that his smile was linked to his political views. I assumed he did not like Trudeau.

François Raymond, a participant, cleans the streets on World Cleanup Day near the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Montreal, Quebec. Photo by Reham Al Azem.

However, after I approached him to verify my perception, he said his smile had nothing to do with his political views, he was just happy with the amount of trash he had collected so far.

It got me thinking that if my picture had been shared on social media without context or with the wrong caption, it would misrepresent Raymond’s actions of simply cleaning his city. For example, if it was published on a social media page affiliated with the NDP or Conservatives, the picture could give the impression that Canadians are not supporting the Liberal Party, and affect voter perception. And with 40 per cent of Canadians using Facebook as a news source, according to the Reuters 2019 Digital News Report, many people could be subject to this disinformation.

This type of situation isn’t unheard of in the mainstream media. In 2016, during a campaign in South Carolina, a photo of Hillary Clinton went viral. It depicted her tumbling on steps with aides helping Clinton get her balance. The photo was used in the alt-right news site Breitbart published it as a clue of Clinton’s deteriorating health from a previous brain injury.  The Getty photographer Mark Makela was disappointed how his photo was misappropriated, in an interview with Wired.

With how easily fake news can be produced, social media companies cannot be depended upon to police themselves. Although Facebook Canada  with Agence France-Presse (AFP) launched its third-party fact-checking program, this will not do enough to prevent disinformation on its platform, according to a new transparency report released by the U.K.-based fact-checking charity organization Full Fact. For example. they state  government should be more involved in providing public information on subjects where harm can be done by disinformation.

I believe that using artificial intelligence to monitor social media on a daily basis will decrease fake news. Yet, Facebook’s fact-checking program is only a partial solution, since it’s impossible to combat the many fake news posts, often mixing opinions, conspiracies, and even facts, which can sometimes appear as real news.

More needs to be done, and I think it should start with legislation, as ultimately, the way people perceive fake news can completely change their views and potentially harm their lives. Law should be a method to protect users’ safety first and foremost,  and to protect journalism as a profession, as it’s one of the main institutions aimed at keeping democracy in place.

In Canada, laws around the dissemination of fake news haven’t been very effective. Section 181 says “ Every one who wilfully publishes a statement, tale or news that he knows is false and that causes or is likely to cause injury or mischief to a public interest is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.” But in 1992, Canada’s Supreme Court deemed the offense unconstitutional as it the right to freedom of expression. And since the  section is not legally effective, there is still a gap when it comes to fighting fake news in the country.

With the new big technology shift occurring, it broadens the chance to have misleading news and lies. To hold that back, new laws need to frequently be enacted on a case-by-case basis in order to suppress the harmful mistruths. I think fines should be imposed on those who repeatedly publish fake information. Ethical hackers can be used to track down perpetrators who are causing significant harm on people’s lives or reputations. This will still keep the flow of democracy without limiting people’s right to free speech.

Due to a national survey conducted by Nanos Research for the organization Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), More than 70 per cent of Canadians agree or somewhat agree that government regulation is needed to prevent the proliferation of fake news, while more than 60 per cent of Canadians think that the federal government is not transparent or somewhat not transparent when it comes to the information that is available about what governments do.”

In the meantime, all we can do is to think critically about everything we see or read, and be skeptical, especially on social media.


Graphic by @sundaeghost
Photos by Reham Al-Azem


The conundrum of Concordia’s Online fee-levy opt-outs are back

The controversial topic of online fee-levy opt-outs is back, as discussions are being pushed by CSU General Coordinator Chris Kalafatidis, who is aiming to get it on a referendum.

Kalafatidis explained that the CSU bylaws allow any student to bring a question to a referendum. All that is needed is to present the question at a meeting, then the student must get 500 signatures from Concordia students. Once that is achieved the question automatically goes onto a referendum.

Kalafatidis requested online fee-levy opt-outs to be put on a referendum at the CSU meeting on Oct. 25.

“As General Coordinator, you have enough influence where you could just go ‘here’s a question council, pass this’ and it goes directly to a referendum,” Kalafatidis said. “Despite being in a position where I could have probably brought this referendum through council, I want to present it myself and get the signatures of 500 students.”

Kalafatidis believes that the effect of online opt-outs will be a positive one. The only thing fee-levy groups have to fear is that students will not know about them. Those that are more exclusionary will have the incentive to spread their services and be more open to students.

Yet, Emily Carson-Apstein, External & Campaigns Coordinator at Sustainable Concordia, was at the meeting as an opponent to Kalafatdis’ presentation. According to Carson-Apstein, online opt-outs will negatively impact fee-levies and the student culture they support.

“It’s really hypocritical for the General Coordinator to take on a project that is going to harm the community,” said Carson-Apstein. “These aren’t people picking and choosing groups. These are people who are opting out of everything without understanding what’s going on.”

Carson-Apstein argued that online opt-outs will defund fee-levy groups immensely. As an argument, she referred to McGill University implementation of online opt-outs as an example of the impact this decision would have on the Concorida student community.  According to the McGill Tribune, before 2007, opt-outs were relatively low. The Student Society of McGill University (SSMU), McGill’s version of Concordia’s CSU, had a 0.83 per cent opt-out rate for the Winter semester. But when online opt-out went up, by the next semester, SSMU’s opt-out rate went up to 6.45 per cent.

“The sad thing is that the opt-out numbers across the majority of the fees are consistent,” said SSMU Vice-President and Services Sarah Olle, in an interview with The McGill Tribune back in 2010. “So, I think what this indicates is that people who are opting out are usually blanket opting out.”

Carson-Apstein believes that opt-outs would defund fee-levy services. This will decrease student awareness of fee-levy’s and their benefits, which in turn will cause more students to opt-out, creating a vicious cycle of opt-outs and defunding.

“It’s not a political decision, it’s a financial decision that is uninformed on what these services can offer them,” Carson-Apstein said. “Many fee-levy groups have been created over decades to address student poverty.”

Carson-Apstein explains that while a student would save $50–$60 when they opt-out, if they take advantage of the services fee-levy’s offer, the student will save much more.

“If you go to the People’s Potato every day for a week, you’ve made that money up already,” Carson-Apstein said.

The McGill Tribune interview with Olle said that despite the fee-levy being different, the rate of students opting-out online didn’t change. Students consistently mass-opted-out no matter what the fee-levy provided or cost.

McGill’s Midnight Kitchen, Concordia’s version of the Peoples Potato, charges $3.35 a semester. It had almost the same rate of opt-outs as CKUT, who charge $5.00 a semester.

But as Kalafatidis presented during the meeting, if online opt-outs are implemented, all fee-levies will be conciliated to work towards a system that will benefit all sides and to make sure students know what they are opting out of. He used the People’s Potato as an example; students use it, are aware of it, and those that don’t use that service understand the importance of the People’s Potato, and refrain from opting out as to not take away free food, Kalafatidis said.

“Fee-levy groups never work towards building better relationships with students,” said Kalafatdis. “Having this option to opt-out would put them in a situation where if they are going to be using student money, they are going to have to earn it.”

Yet, Carson-Apstein is worried because once the referendum is counted, the final say will be with the Concordia University Administration.

“Once we put it in the hands of the university, the students won’t have control,” Carson-Apstein said, describing how Concordia websites are infamously hard to use and full of bugs. “If you think about how well Moodle and myConcordia work, the University is not going to make this easy.”

Online opt-outs are not imminent, but the groundwork is being laid. No matter which option students pick, both demand student engagement in the Concordia community.


Photo by Laurence B. D.


Concordia Student Union News

CSU by-elections draw a crowd

Nine councillors, two referendums approved with nearly 2,700 votes cast

Nine new councillors and two referendum campaigns are victorious following the Concordia Student Union (CSU) by-elections.

In a turnout that was nearly double that of the last general election, students voted overwhelmingly in favour of online voting, with over 2,400 votes in favour, just 107 opposed and 158 abstentions.

“I could not believe it,” said Arts and Science Councillor Chris Kalafatidis, who led the campaign in favour of online voting.

As for future elections, Kalafatidis said he would like to stay with Simply Voting, the online voting system used by the CSU, but would also be open to having other companies bid on the contract.

This does not mean the union is mandated to implement online voting. “The referendum question is not binding,” CSU General Coordinator, Sophie Hough-Martin, told The Concordian. “Technically, because we used it for the by-elections, I suspect that council will just mandate us to implement it for the March general elections as well.”

However, she said “going forward, we would have to have a binding referendum that actually supports the permanent implementation [of online voting] as a replacement of paper ballots.”

In a hotly contested race for the open Arts and Science councillor seat, Jane Lefebvre Prévost beat out her five opponents with 30.8 per cent of the vote. Her runner up, Victoria Bolanos-Roberts, earned 26.2 per cent. “The by-election hasn’t been the smoothest logistically-speaking, but I’m really proud of everyone who ran,” said Lefebvre Prévost. “Candidates did their best to support one another throughout it.” She hopes to introduce mandatory anti-racism workshops for all councillors during her term.

Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science (GCS) candidates Eduardo Malorni and Patrick Lavoie won the two open GCS seats in an eight-person race. “What helped me the most [was] definitely the support of all the people and friends I’ve met at the GCS,” Lavoie said. “This was pretty clearly a close race, and every vote mattered.” Lavoie hopes to acquire more funding for GCS student societies and improve transparency within the union.

Eliza McFarlane defeated her opponent, Pat Jouryan Martel, to win the Fine Arts seat. All five candidates from the John Molson School of Business were elected to council.

Finally, students approved the union’s proposed fee levy restructuring, with over 1,300 students (or 62.5 per cent of voters) voting in favour of the proposed changes. Starting in the summer semester, the fees for operations, clubs and the Advocacy Centre will go up by 20 cents, 6 cents and 10 cents, respectively. To compensate, the fee levy for the Student Space, Accessible Education and Legal Contingency Fund, which funds projects like the Woodnote Housing Cooperative, will be reduced by 36 cents.

“It’s certainly a relief, I’ve gotta say,” said Finance Coordinator John Hutton, who introduced the referendum. “I was confident that it would pass, but until I actually saw the numbers in front of me, I wasn’t willing to let myself calm down.”

Hutton said the restructured fee levies will correct several of the union’s structural deficits as soon as they are implemented. Although the change was meant to take effect this semester, the postponement of the by-elections last fall means restructuring will only happen in the summer semester.

Regarding online voting, Hutton said the savings from electronic voting will likely leave the union under budget for its campaigns expenses for the year, even though its by-elections had to be repeated. In particular, the union saved about $17,000 that would have otherwise been spent on election security in its second by-election.

Opinions differed as to what was responsible for the increased voter turnout. Almost 2,700 students voted in the by-election, representing 7.4 per cent of all undergraduate students. By contrast, the March 2018 general election only drew around 1,400 voters.

Kalafatidis said the online voting system was entirely responsible for the increased voter turnout. “I do not believe any other variable had a significant impact,” he said. “Maybe a really small one, but that’s it.”

Hough-Martin said it was the number of candidates, especially in Arts and Science and the GCS, that generated interest in the election.

Arts and Science Councillor Patrick Quinn, who chaired the CSU’s elections and participation committee, said it was a combination of both. He said the email each member was sent with links to vote played a major part in increasing voter participation.

Despite the increased turnout, Hough-Martin said the union has a long way to go to improve voter turnout. “We would like to be seeing numbers in the double digits.”

“I think that there is still work to be done in voter engagement, and to get people more involved with the student union,” said Hough-Martin.

Photo by Hannah Ewen.

Concordia Student Union Opinions

One CSU member explains the advantages of being able to vote online

One CSU member explains the advantages of being able to vote online

Full disclosure: I work for the Vote YES to Online Voting campaign. I am chair of the Concordia Student Union elections and participation committee. Today, I am writing to tell you why I am for online voting at Concordia.

To save money

For the last four elections, the CSU has spent an average of $36,000. Last year, $53,000 was spent on an election that only saw 1,424 votes cast. That’s approximately four per cent of the student population. Each year, the money spent on elections goes toward paying for ballots, polling clerks, deputy electoral officers, ballot counters, the chief electoral officer and security. Last year, the CSU spent $14,000 on security alone. The amount of money spent on student elections at Concordia is excessive given the number of people who actually vote. A lot of money would be saved if voting was done online. One external company estimated that using their system would cost $7,500. Based on the CSU’s 2018 General Elections CEO Report, this would have saved the union nearly $22,000, which could have been reinvested in new electoral practices, such as new election positions and advertising.

To improve security

Although some people have concerns about the security of online voting, it’s important to recognize that the current CSU election procedure is not secure either. In October, ballot boxes from the CSU’s 2017 by-election were left unattended in the hallway on the fourth floor of the Hall building. Those boxes contained people’s names, their ballots and the ballot ID associated with them. This information could be used to identify who each person voted for. It’s also important to consider that security is about risk management. Before selecting a company to administer online voting, the CSU can do its due diligence by asking questions about security measures and ensuring certain standards are met.

To be more sustainable

Currently, the CSU uses paper ballots in their elections. The union’s sustainability policy defines sustainability as “the process and outcome of achieving social justice, economic equality and environmental health by reducing our economic footprint and empowering communities.” Switching to online voting would allow the CSU to further reduce its economic footprint and contribute to environmental health. The less paper used, the better.

To increase accessibility

As is, the CSU’s voting system is not accessible to people who have disabilities, such as hearing or vision impairments. Some online voting companies, such as the Montreal-based Simply Voting, offer accessibility features and are regularly audited by the Bureau of Internet Accessibility. By working with an online voting company, the CSU could make its elections inclusive for all Concordia students.

To increase convenience

The truth is, online voting is convenient. I live off island. It normally takes me an hour and a half to get to school by public transportation. The winter weather only makes this worse. A long commute, disruptions to public transit or bad weather can all contribute to a student’s decision to stay home and miss the opportunity to vote. Although the CSU voting period lasts three days, it’s not uncommon for students to wait until the last minute. Time is of the essence and casting a ballot online would be faster and easier.

At the end of the day, we all want what’s best for the CSU. Online voting has the potential to get more people to participate in student elections. I have seen a lot of apathy toward voting at Concordia. We need to do something to fix that, and this is a start. Let’s change how we do things at the CSU by saying “yes” to online voting from Nov. 27 to 29.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


Exit mobile version