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Media Advisory: Minister Abbott to Bring Greetings at National Housing Day Community Forum – News Releases – Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

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The Honourable John G. Abbott, Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development, and Minister Responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, will bring greetings at a National Housing Day Community Forum tomorrow (Tuesday, November 22) at 9:00 a.m.

The forum, which is jointly hosted by the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Homelessness Network and the City of St. John’s, will take place at the network’s office, located at 77 Charter Avenue, St. John’s. Parking and entry to the building are located on East Drive.

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Media contacts
Jenny Bowring
Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation
709-730-5886
jmbowring@nlhc.nl.ca

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Khadija Rehma
Children, Seniors and Social Development
709-729-3768, 730-2977
khadijarehma@gov.nl.ca

2022 11 21
2:45 pm

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Who should be teaching kids what not to do on social media? Coaches, teachers, parents

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One of the most famous locker-room stories in modern sports happened in 2013 when NHL player Joe Thornton said – for all to hear – that if he ever scored four goals in a single game, he’d skate naked in front of everyone in the arena.

This description is the sanitized version and the comment was reported by the late-Vancouver sports reporter Jason Botchford – prompting a storm of criticism that the journalist had violated the sanctity of the locker room.

It was a very public example of how hockey players – and athletes in general – view their sacred den of privacy.

“What goes on in the locker room, stays in the locker room,” as the saying goes.

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This code has been used to boost team spirits, but it’s also been co-opted to cover up abuse by pledging athletes to a code of silence, no matter how bad the behaviour.

Instantaneous technology – or particularly social media – is now disrupting the sports world’s code of silence.

Hockey has been rocked by scandals, including Hockey Canada standing accused of not taking sexual assault accusations seriously enough.

Hockey Canada released a report Friday detailing more than 900 documented or alleged incidents of on-ice discrimination – verbal taunts, insults and intimidation – across all levels and age groups during the 2021-22 season. The organization said, however, the information in the report doesn’t reflect off-ice incidents of maltreatment, sexual violence or abuse, which starting this season will be handled by the federal government’s Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner or a new independent third-party complaint process.

Social media has given victims and others a voice for demanding wide-scale changes.

NHL player Ian Cole was accused by a woman on Twitter of “grooming” – he was suspended and then reinstated after an NHL probe.

But it’s not just incidents and allegations hitting the big leagues.

In West Kelowna, a minor hockey organization has been dealing with allegations of disturbing hazing and cyberbullying. Kelowna RCMP’s Vulnerable Persons Section is now investigating a series of alleged incidents that include social media posts and group texts targeting a U15 player as part of a larger pattern of harassment.

In a different case, social media is at the centre of an egregious violation of locker-room privacy. Now the fate of a teenage hockey player is in the hands of a Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association disciplinary committee after inappropriate locker-room photos of undressed teammates were posted to social media.

Black Press Media has chosen not to identify the specific team to protect the identities of the youth involved.

According to a source that Black Press Media has also decided not to name, the photos were taken during an away game in October, by a player who was benched due to a prior game suspension. The images were shared in a Snapchat group chat.

Brad Scott, vice-president of administration with the local hockey association, did not dispute details when asked for comment by Black Press Media.

“What I can tell you is that we were made aware of a situation on the date that you’re referring to, and we took the required steps to deal with it immediately,” Scott said. The children involved and their famillies have decided not to pursue the matter further, and charges have not been approved at this time.

Scott added that the association does have protocols in place to prevent situations like this from happening. That association says it is looking to implement mandatory social media safety education and training program for parents and athletes alike.

This is just one example in what has become a prevalent number of incidents where children share inappropriate photos and videos on social media.

It begs the question of who – aside from parents – should be teaching children about social media and privacy ethics? Should coaches, club leaders and school teachers also be responsible for educating kids about this in a way that goes beyond simply saying that sharing inappropriate images is bad?

Children participate in so many different activities, from school to sports to the performing arts, and in all those spaces there is an expectation of privacy and good social conduct.

Leaders of children need to teach about social media

Not everyone who leads children is an expert in social media, but with some training and effort they can be part of the solution.

That’s according to MediaSmarts, a non-profit group that has been contracted by provincial and federal departments to advise on digital literacy issues.

MediaSmarts director of education Matthew Johnson said in a phone interview that any organization that guides children, whether it’s schools, performing arts group or sports teams, should be addressing privacy ethics.

“They absolutely should be teaching children about this,” Johnson said. “We all have a responsibility to teach youth about privacy ethics.”

Johnson says “everybody has a camera in their pocket” and the issue of how images are used must be addressed as a collective effort.

Sports teams are an interesting case, Johnson said, because of the “strong subculture” that develops within that team dynamic. Sometimes that subculture becomes more powerful than even what parents are telling them, Johnson said, with coaches sometimes carrying more weight than mom and dad.

Teams need to be vigilant in sharing a message of respecting others, he said, so they “don’t fall prey to moral disengagement.”

MediaSmarts research has looked at, for example, the issue of sexts sent between boys and girls. Boys are more likely to think it’s acceptable to share the sexts with others, Johnson says.

Efforts need to be made with consistent messaging so this behaviour isn’t normalized, he said. The key is letting boys know that their peers think it’s wrong.

“If they think that their peers think it’s wrong, then they’re more likely not to do it,” Johnson said.

But organizations need to do more than simply say something is wrong, Johnson said. MediaSmarts offers a variety of information and tools for people to use in teaching about digital literacy on a consistent basis and is a good place for organizations to start.

Hockey coaches trained for age-appropriate lessons

BC Hockey CEO Cameron Hope says his organization, which handles more than 60,000 minor and amateur hockey league players – including the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association – has detailed policies and protocols in place for locker room privacy and the use of social media. For example, the use of phones in locker rooms is prohibited.

BC Hockey also has educational modules detailing appropriate conduct that have been created through a partnership with Sheldon Kennedy, a former-NHL player and survivor of sexual abuse by a coach, Hope said.

All of these policies and materials are then distributed to all the individual hockey associations, with age-appropriate instructions on how they are to be delivered to each player, Hope said.

Coaches are a vital part of delivering messages about their behaviour but, unfortunately, not every player listens, Hope said.

“The hope is that common sense prevails,” but Hope adds that this isn’t always the case.

BC Hockey receives dozens and dozens of complaints each year, according to Hope, ranging from kids calling each other nasty names to the sharing of inappropriate images.

To deal with these complaints, Hope said BC Hockey has a multi-level approach called a “maltreatment tracking system” that documents each case to ensure they are investigated and taken seriously. BC Hockey also formed a new committee just to monitor complaints as they progress through the system. This tracking system, said Hope, is being used for the Maple Ridge locker-room incident.

“You have to have an infrastructure in place so people feel comfortable (reporting incidents),” Hope said.

Ultimately, it’s the local associations that investigate and communicate with parents, Hope said.

A source who contacted Black Press Media about the Maple Ridge incident was concerned the case was not being dealt with quickly enough.

The team’s players were told right after the incident, and then there was a mandatory meeting for parents. But according to the source, only about half to three-quarters of the parents attended.

Parents have since been told, in a letter from the association to parents that was obtained by Black Press Media, that the parents of the children who were victimized didn’t want to pursue the matter any further.

A Ridge-Meadows Minor Hockey Association player is facing discipline for sharing images of undressed teammates on social media. (Pexels/Tima Miroshnichenko photo)

A Ridge-Meadows Minor Hockey Association player is facing discipline for sharing images of undressed teammates on social media. (Pexels/Tima Miroshnichenko photo)

Teaching privacy ethics in schools

Students spend six to eight hours, fives days a week, at school – and when sleep is factored in that leaves young people in the hands of teachers more hours in a day than parents.

In 2013, B.C.’s education ministry launched the ERASE Student Advisory, which brings students together to help create social media guidelines for inside and outside of the classroom.

Such guidelines include students today being asked to sign media consent forms at the start of the school year. The guide also encourages teachers to address social media use in the classroom by outlining “their specific rules.”

But does that place an unfair burden on teachers?

Not so, says BC Teachers’ Federation president Clint Johnston, who told Black Press Media the union is supportive of teachers playing a major role in teaching privacy ethics.

In fact, the union has been working with the ministry on a draft section dealing with internet safety. That section will then upgrade a health education course to include issues such as catfishing and the sharing of inappropriate images online.

Students need more education on the legalities involved with sharing private information on social media, he said.

“That is a piece being put into place (for the future),” Johnston said. “We’re certainly supportive of (this being taught). That’s how you ensure every student receives it.”

Then, other teachers add to that course by continuing conversations in all classrooms to reinforce the same information.

By the time the law is accessed, the damage is done

The efforts described above are all about prevention. Sadly, for some the damage done can lead to tragic ends.

Perhaps the most famous cyberbullying case in Canada ended with the death of Coquitlam’s Amanda Todd after she was sextored by a man online. The man who tortured her was recently convicted in a B.C. court.

In 2013, 17-year-old Nova Scotia resident Rehtaeh Parsons, who was allegedly raped and then bullied over shared photos of the assault, also ended her own life.

Earlier this year, a Vancouver mom came forward to describe how her 12-year-old daughter received explicit images over Instagram, causing extreme emotional damage.

The list of incidents goes on and on.

In Canada, it is illegal for a person to distribute an intimate image of another person without that person’s consent.

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection created Cybertip.ca to provide programs and resources to help prevent online child victimization, including information on the legal aspects of posting intimate images.

If someone has an intimate image/video that was created in private circumstances, and that person knowingly posts it online or shares it with someone else, knowing that those in the image would not consent to it, the person could be charged.

Items posted in private sites can easily be reposted elsewhere and are difficult to remove from the internet.

In the Maple Ridge incident, families were warned to delete the images of the undressed teammates, but it’s unknown if that actually took place with every player on the team who received them – leaving the victims possibly vulnerable in the future.

– With additional reporting by Colleen Flanagan, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News & Gary Barnes, Kelowna Capital News, and the Canadian Press

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US Sides Against Google in Consequential Social Media Case

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(Bloomberg) — The Biden administration told the US Supreme Court that social media companies in some cases can be held liable for promoting harmful speech, partially siding with a family seeking to sue Alphabet Inc.’s Google over a terrorist attack.

In a Supreme Court filing on Wednesday night, the Justice Department argued that social media websites should be held responsible for some of the ways their algorithms decide what content to put in front of users.

The case, likely to be argued early next year, revolves around the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old US citizen who was killed by ISIS in Paris in November 2015. Her family is arguing that YouTube, which Google owns, violated the Anti-Terrorism Act because its algorithms recommended ISIS-related content.

The Justice Department did not outright side with Gonzalez. Instead, the government argued that the family should get another crack before a federal appeals court that tossed out the complaint against Google. The government said social media companies shouldn’t be held liable simply for allowing content to be posted or for failing to remove it.

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Read More: Social Media Company Liability Draws Supreme Court Scrutiny

The case could narrow the country’s interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the tech industry’s prized liability shield that protects social media platforms from being held liable for content generated by users.

“The statute does not bar claims based on YouTube’s alleged targeted recommendations of ISIS content,” wrote acting US Solicitor General Brian Fletcher.

A coalition of 26 states and Washington, D.C. also filed on behalf of Gonzalez in the case, arguing that courts have encouraged an overly broad interpretation of Section 230. They claimed the statute currently holds them back from enforcing state laws when criminals operate online.

Congress has long debated whether to reform Section 230, which was originally passed in 1996 before the modern internet came to dominate everyday life. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have argued that the sweeping immunity has enabled the social media companies to make editorial decisions affecting billions of people without consequences. But Congress has struggled to create and pass bipartisan legislation on the issue, leaving the question of online speech to the courts.

Most of the Supreme Court justices have not made any public statements about their views on Section 230 – except Justice Clarence Thomas, who last year said the court should consider treating social media companies like public utilities. That would enable the government to create a much more aggressive regulatory regime around companies like Meta Platforms Inc., Twitter Inc. and YouTube.

The Google v. Gonzalez case has already attracted attention from some senators on Capitol Hill. Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri submitted briefs in support of reforming Section 230, which has long faced the ire of conservatives hoping to punish the social media companies for allegedly censoring conservative content.

Google has argued that narrowing Section 230 could make it harder for them, and other social media platforms, to remove terrorist content.

“Through the years, YouTube has invested in technology, teams, and policies to identify and remove extremist content,” said Google spokesman José Castañeda. “We regularly work with law enforcement, other platforms, and civil society to share intelligence and best practices. Undercutting Section 230 would make it harder, not easier, to combat harmful content — making the internet less safe and less helpful for all of us.”

The Justice Department sided with Twitter and Google in a separate Supreme Court case involving social media this week. At issue in Twitter v. Mehier Taamneh is whether Twitter violated the Anti-Terrorism Act by failing to enforce policies against pro-terrorist content on its platform. Fletcher argued in a filing on Tuesday night that Taamneh’s family had failed to prove that Twitter was intentionally “aiding and abetting” terrorism.

The cases are Gonzalez v. Google, 21-1333 and Twitter v. Taamneh, 21-1496.

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As with all media, messaging from sports stars like LeBron James must be consumed with discretion

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Last week, LeBron James, the NBA star and production company president, ended a post-game news conference by tossing a question back at reporters.

“I got one question for you guys before you guys leave. I was thinking when I was on my way over here, I was wondering why I haven’t gotten a question from you guys about the Jerry Jones photo,” James said. “But when the Kyrie thing was going on, you guys were quick to ask us questions about that.”

The photo in question was published in the Washington Post, and shows a teenage Jones, now the owner of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, among an all-white mob opposing the integration of North Little Rock High School in 1957.

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Isn’t this masterful stuff from James, a former high-school prodigy who has essentially grown up in front of reporters’ microphones? Don’t you admire James’s black-belt level verbal jiu-jitsu, putting writers on defence while highlighting a glaring double standard? This is important work, forcing the media to focus on an important story instead of gossip-column sideshows.

Right?

Not really, but hold on.

This past weekend here came Deion Sanders, the two-sport superstar turned college football coach, leaving his previous job at Jackson State University for a higher-paying post at the University of Colorado Boulder. Video clips from his provisional farewell to Jackson State players (he’ll coach them in the Celebration Bowl next weekend), and his introduction to staff and players in Colorado, hit the internet immediately.

One video was titled, “The Part of Deion Sanders ‘Exit Meeting With His Team’ THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO SEE.” The implication here is that the media curated the Sanders footage to make “Coach Prime,” appear more opportunistic and less empathetic than he really is.

Two sports superstars, and two examples of the media missing the point.

Except that James used that same rant to highlight his “platform” — he has 52.5 million Twitter followers. And last Saturday’s glut of Sanders content? Much of it came from Well Off Media, the outlet Sanders himself controls.

James and Sanders are, of course, free to complain about the media, but when you boast about your social media reach, and run a production company, you are the media. Celebrities understand that reality, even if the audience doesn’t always recognize it. Inside that knowledge gap, everything famous folks and civilians alike resent about the traditional press can flourish — bias, spin, self-serving half-truths and more.

Whose truth?

We’re living in the #MoreThanAnAthlete era, where sports stars are encouraged to join important conversations. James has more social media followers than the Washington Post and NPR combined, and he knows that one comment or tweet could drive an entire 24-hour news cycle.

But when superstars use their voices, the rest of us still have to use our brains, and figure out whether we’re consuming the truth, or just their truth.

In James’s case, the alleged double standard is just your everyday false equivalence. Writers asked about Irving because he and James are peers and former teammates, both members of the NBA Players’ Association. It makes sense to wonder how the Nets’ outside-the-CBA sanctions on Irving resonated with fellow union members.

And Jones?

He owns an NFL team, and has no direct, obvious connection to James. If a reporter didn’t already know James was invested in the Jerry Jones photos, they wouldn’t have much impetus to ask. They could ask anyway, hoping to luck into a juicy answer… but why?

The Washington Post published a picture of a teenaged Jones, above, among an all-white mob opposing the integration of North Little Rock High School in 1957. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

When you’re one-on-one with an athlete, and know something about their interests, wide-ranging, outside-the-lines questions can yield insightful responses. When I worked the baseball beat, I could draw players into conversations about the overlap between sports and politics in Cuba, or Venezuela, or whether merengue makes better walk-up music than salsa or reggaeton.

But to do it at a press conference, full of reporters on tight deadlines and players eager to fulfil their press obligation as quickly as possible, is reckless on several levels. If the athlete gives a thoughtful answer, it belongs to every reporter in the room, and not just to you. But if the athlete isn’t interested in your nuanced topic — and most times they’re not — you’ll get a quizzical look and a non-answer. Every dud question wastes everyone’s time.

Unless James is suggesting that reporters routinely solicit his opinion on current events during post-game press briefings, maybe using the beat writer’s favourite rhetorical device — the “talk about” non-question.

“LeBron, talk about the FTX collapse.”

“Talk about quantitative easing.”

“Since we’re in Toronto, talk about the Ontario Line transit stop at Osgoode Hall.”

Do you want that? Every night? Even if you think you do, you don’t.

PR misstep

And if James wants reporters to discuss issues that are important to him, he can mention them on social media, or put it on a t-shirt, like he did after Eric Garner’s death at the hands of a New York City police officer.

In short, because he has the platform, he can say it himself.

If he needs an example, there was Sanders, with his videographer trailing him, strutting into a Colorado meeting room full of nervous young men. Face to face for the first time, Sanders urged them to jump ship, so he could replace them with his own recruits.

“I’m coming. And when I get here, it’s gonna be change,” Sanders said. “So I want y’all to get ready to go ahead and jump in the [transfer] portal and do whatever you’re gonna get because more of you [transfer] the more room you make.”

Sanders’s one PR misstep: asking the players for a call-and-response after revealing he planned to cut most of them. Better to get them to chant with you while they’re still star-struck, then pivot to the grim business of trimming the roster.

By then, Sanders, who went 27-5 in three seasons at Jackson State, had already won the news conference. Go back and watch it. Short on football specifics; long on smiles and swagger and shout-outs to God.

Later, in the team meeting, a player asked Sanders about off-season training. Sanders acknowledged that he intended to “make some of you quit.”

Talk like that foreshadows brutal winter workouts that aren’t designed to prepare players for football. Those sessions sometimes make headlines for sending athletes to the hospital with rhabdomyolysis, where your muscles essentially disintegrate from overwork. Seems to happen somewhere every winter. Is 2023 Colorado’s year?

I hope not.

Either way, it sounds like a new boss threatening to endanger a vulnerable workforce. But Sanders has a resumé and charm, and a media outlet on his side, and so can make an objectively sleazy situation sound normal, harmless and justified.

When you have a platform and a delivery system, that kind of spin is possible. Most athletes — and certainly all superstars — have access to both.

So they can complain about the media missing the point, and we can listen. But none of us has to buy it. They’re media too, and I encourage you to consume their content the same way you consume anybody else’s. Mine included.

With discretion.

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