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How Nova Scotia has used social media to nudge people to follow COVID-19 restrictions –



While then premier Stephen McNeil implored people to “Stay the blazes home” during the first COVID-19 lockdown last year, Nova Scotia’s social media messaging has consistently taken a gentler, often humorous approach to encourage people to follow public health restrictions.

Whether it’s two amorous Nova Scotians looking to “take things to the next level” by getting tested for COVID-19 or on “the worst Noël, the experts did say, limit our social circles and stay six feet away,” examples are abundant.

“In a heavy situation, it’s a way to break the ice with people,” said David Denny, the managing director of marketing for Communications Nova Scotia.

He said the province’s social media channels have seen exponential growth since the pandemic began and record engagement on its posts.

For example, the province’s number of Facebook followers has tripled to almost 110,000 since the pandemic began, while its Instagram followers have increased almost tenfold to more than 36,000.

Denny attributes that in part to the videos that private companies have produced for the province to share on its social media channels.

Besides these videos, the province has paid for promoted posts, mainly on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These posts have included everything from geo-targeted promotion of a regional popup testing site to targeting a message to a specific demographic.

But it’s unclear how much this marketing effort has cost taxpayers.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil made his ‘Stay the blazes home’ comment at a briefing in April 2020. (CBC)

A CBC News access-to-information request for invoices relating to the province’s COVID-19 social media marketing strategy revealed that 61 of the 196 invoices covering March 1, 2020, to July 15, 2021, did not have a total amount included. The incomplete invoices came from Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Invoices from the marketing firms and video production companies the province worked with included the full amounts. Part of that effort included working with paid influencers.

The use of influencers

“Sometimes people just don’t want to hear from government and the message is going to resonate more from a peer or someone that they feel is a peer, that they they look up to … they also have a larger [following] than we do, so it gets more eyeballs on the message and it sometimes can be delivered in a way that only that segment of the population can deliver it,” said Denny.

One of those influencers is Halifax’s Alicia McCarvell, a body-positivity advocate who has 3.3 million followers on TikTok and 386,000 on Instagram.

The province paid Toronto marketing agency Shine Influencers $11,025 for McCarvell’s services for this video, as well as $15,687.50 to Canadian Content Studios to produce the video, which encourages people to get tested for COVID-19.

Another influencer, Andy Hay of Andy’s East Coast Kitchen, produced a video on how to make a Christmas dinner for under $50.

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The province paid $3,955 to Toronto firm Diner Agency Inc. for the influencer partnership and video creation.

Nova Scotia also used unpaid collaborations with local athletes and people within Black Nova Scotian and Indigenous communities to spread the word about getting vaccinated.

Dalhousie University marketing professor Mohammed El Hazzouri says Nova Scotia’s decision to use humour and thank people for following public health restrictions in their social media campaigns is effective. (Submitted by Mohammed El Hazzouri)

Dalhousie University marketing professor Mohammed El Hazzouri, who researches how people respond to public health messaging, said the province’s social media strategy adopts the right tone.

“When you use humour, when you are funny in your advertising, I think people are more receptive to that advertising,” he said. “People are not thinking about details of the advertisement or coming up with counter arguments to what you’re saying and so the message becomes more accepted.”

Denny said that was part of the aim.

“That’s kind of our end goal because it was information that was important and information that at the end of the day was about keeping Nova Scotians safe,” he said. “And anything we could do to make that more shareable, we looked at.”

‘It’s a weird time’

At the end of some videos, a narrator thanks Nova Scotians for following public health restrictions.

“We know it’s a weird time and we know you get it, so thank you for staying home, following health advice and looking out for one another,” said the narrator.

El Hazzouri liked this.

“I think this is very important, this acknowledgement of, ‘We’re working together on this,'” he said. “This is not a highly common approach. I haven’t seen it widely in Canada, so this one stood out for me, thanking Nova Scotians for following the rules.”

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As the pandemic has evolved from staying home during the first lockdown to gradual reopenings and vaccinations — with some more lockdowns sprinkled in — Denny said the province is working to get more people vaccinated.

As of Friday, 75.9 per cent of Nova Scotians were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“There are pockets of people who are harder to reach or who may be more hesitant,” said Denny. “We’ve taken steps to reach them and through targeted marketing efforts.”

But while the province’s social media messaging has consistently offered a carrot to people, recent policies such as proof of vaccination to participate in non-essential activities and mandatory vaccinations for provincial civil servants amount to more of a stick.

“With these new policies in place … hopefully, that encourages people to to get vaccinated,” said Denny.

View Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 social media invoices covering March 1, 2020, to July 15, 2021.


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NDP calls for social media watchdog as scrutiny of Facebook heats up – The Globe and Mail



NDP Member of Parliament Charlie Angus speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Oct. 18.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The fallout from a Facebook whistleblower’s explosive revelations this month continues to descend on Canada as politicians and experts grapple with how to regulate Big Tech amid renewed questions on the harm it can wreak.

A prolonged “techlash” over the past few years has seen western countries adopt varying degrees of platform regulation, with users becoming increasingly alive to the fractured civic bonds brought on by digital echo chambers. But so far no single approach to regulating and policing the platforms has emerged as a solution.

New Democrats are the latest to demand a federal government crackdown on social media giants. On Monday, NDP MP Charlie Angus called on Ottawa to establish an independent watchdog that tackles disinformation, hateful posts and algorithm transparency, citing a former Facebook executive .

Frances Haugen testified before a U.S. Senate committee on Oct. 5 that the company’s products harm children and fuel polarization in the U.S., a claim supported by internal company research leaked to the Wall Street Journal.

“Ms. Haugen reveals that Facebook knew that its algorithms are driving hate content and leading to breakdown in civic engagement,” Angus said.

“Facebook made the decision to incentivize profits through its use of its algorithms over the well-being of its users.”

As the company confronts intense public scrutiny over how its coding fans inflammatory rhetoric and affects users’ self-esteem, Angus is proposing to create an independent ombudsman accountable to the House of Commons, akin to Canada’s ethics and privacy commissioners.

“Rather than relying on outdated institutions like the Competition Bureau or the CRTC, it’s time for the federal government to establish a regulator that actually understands this file,” he said.

Facebook Canada said it continues to make investments that target misinformation and harmful content, and stands ready to collaborate with lawmakers on a new legal frameworks for platforms.

“As we’ve shared, we welcome regulation and have been vocal calling for a new set of public rules for all technology companies to follow. It’s been 25 years since the rules for the Internet have been updated and it’s time for industry standards to be introduced so private companies aren’t making these decisions on their own,” Rachel Curran, head of policy at Facebook Canada, said in a statement.

Online hate remains on Ottawa’s radar as global observers continue to question Facebook’s role in tragedies ranging from the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand to deadly military violence directed at Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, along with racist posts in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to overhaul internet rules after a pair of bills aiming to regulate social media giants and tackle online hate died on the order paper this year.

In last month’s federal election campaign, he promised to introduce legislation within 100 days of forming government that combats harmful online materials.

His plan would create a digital safety commissioner to enforce a new regime that targets child pornography, terrorist content, hate speech and other harmful posts on social media platforms. The regulator could order social media companies to take down posts within 24 hours.

Sam Andrey, director of policy and research at the Ryerson Leadership Lab, welcomes the new blueprint. But he suggested enhancing transparency at tech giants by requiring details on algorithms, not just company data on illegal content and post takedowns.

Andrey also said the government’s proposal targets sites where the posts are public such as YouTube and Facebook, but not private messages on platforms such as the Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

“But there’s mounting evidence … that private platforms, including things like WhatsApp or WeChat, can contribute to the spread of online harm,” he said, suggesting a way to flag troubling messages.

Charter questions of privacy and free expression may well come into play as the government considers whether the regime should cover private communication, whether to expand its scope to other harmful activity such as impersonation and how proactive the digital safety commissioner and accompanying tribunal could be.

Vivek Krishnamurthy, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, noted that most large platforms already have policies that claim to meet or exceed the government’s would-be rules on harmful material, with some seeking to highlight or remove misleading information – about COVID-19 vaccines, for example.

New Democrats and Conservatives have also questioned why a new regulator is needed to crack down on exploitive material when the Criminal Code already bars child pornography, hate speech and the knowing distribution of illicit images.

Krishnamurthy says the government is focusing too heavily on “culture war” wedge points rather than data privacy, which involves fewer grey areas.

“There’s no real work happening on Big Tech and competition in Canada,” he added.

Trudeau has said he will reintroduce legislation to modernize the broadcasting regime in a way that could force internet steaming sites like Netflix and Spotify to showcase Canadian content and cough up financial contributions to bolster Canadian creators.

Bill C-10, which died in the Senate in August after the election was triggered, provoked months of debate over whether its regulation of online videos would amount to government overreach, with free speech advocates criticizing the bill and the arts community supporting it.

Angus said Monday that the bill amounted to a “political dumpster fire” and that having the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) address Facebook algorithms would bring “a 1980s solution to a 21st-century problem.” He added that Bill C-10 included “good ideas” around applying broadcast rules for funding to Big Tech.

“Tax the SOBs,” he said of tech behemoths.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said earlier this month the Liberal government will move ahead with legislation finalizing the enactment of a Digital Services Tax by Jan. 1. The tax would come into effect two years later on Jan. 1, 2024, if a tax regime under a newly inked global agreement has not already come into force.

A spokesperson for Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said comment is not possible until cabinet has been formed, but pointed to the Liberals’ platform pledges, including a plank requiring digital giants to pay legacy media outlets for linking to their work.

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Media Advisory: Minister Coady to Introduce Legislation on Making Better Beverage Choices – News Releases – Government of Newfoundland and Labrador



The Honourable Siobhan Coady, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier, will be available to discuss amendments to the Revenue Administration Act regarding sugar sweetened beverages prior to debate in the House of Assembly tomorrow (Tuesday, October 19) at 11:00 a.m. in the media centre, East Block, Confederation Building.

The event will be live-streamed on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.

Media covering the announcement will have the opportunity to join in person in the media centre or by teleconference. Media planning to participate should register with Victoria Barbour ( by 9:00 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, October 19).

Technical Briefing

Prior to the announcement, a technical briefing for media will be provided at 10:00 a.m.

Media participating in the briefing will also have the opportunity to join in person in the media centre or by teleconference. Media who wish to participate in the technical briefing should RSVP Victoria Barbour (, who will provide the details and the required information.

Media must join the teleconference at 9:45 a.m. (NST) to be included on the call. For sound quality purposes, registered media are asked to use a land line if at all possible.


Media contact
Diana Quinton

2021 10 18
5:10 pm

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Thomas Knapp: Legacy social media: Free as in beer, not as in speech – Ontario Argus Observer



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Thomas Knapp: Legacy social media: Free as in beer, not as in speech  Ontario Argus Observer

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