McGill students have been in an uproar over screenshots, initially posted on Reddit, of a Facebook conversation leaked on March 18, the first day of the voting period of the Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) 2015 elections.
The screenshots document an 18-member Facebook conversation that occurred on March 26, 2014, in which participants discussed a potential SSMU Judicial Board (J-Board) petition to invalidate the short-lived 2014-15 presidency of Tariq Khan. This year’s newly elected SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim and VP Internal Lola Baraldi were participants in the conversation.
Incoming VP Finance Zacheriah Houston, also a participant in the Facebook thread, explained that the group was meant to “allow for collaboration on the compilation of evidence [of Khan’s campaign bylaw infractions] and potential preparation of a J-Board petition.”
During the week following this discussion, on April 1, 2014, Khan’s SSMU presidential results were invalidated on the basis of SSMU bylaw infractions committed during his electoral campaign.
The Facebook thread includes the discussion of plans to possibly record a then-upcoming meeting between Ibrahim and Khan, an act legal under Quebec law. However, in said thread, Ibrahim also considers hacking into Khan’s Facebook account during the meeting, which would be illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada. According to Khan, he had asked Ibrahim to meet with him to establish a working relationship for the upcoming year.
“I am completely fine with this issue resurfacing and addressing concerns because I stand by my actions, but I am against the way in which it is being conducted, as a smear campaign with private and out-of-context screenshots.”
Khan told The Daily that his Facebook account was hacked on March 27, 2014, and that he filed a police report at the time in response to this invasion of privacy.
Last Wednesday, the day of the Reddit leaks, Khan made a public statement on Facebook claiming that, after reading the image posted during Ibrahim’s Reddit “Ask me Anything” thread, he could not deny the parallels between the contents of the conversation and the fact that his account had been hacked the year before.
He will be not be suing Ibrahim, as he claimed he would in a post following the release of the screenshots, nor will he be pressing charges against any of the parties involved in the Facebook chat – though he will be updating the police report he originally filed with the newly released evidence.
Ibrahim told The Daily that the comments he made in the leaked Facebook conversation had not been appropriate. “They definitely were very poor comments on my part,” he said.
“Nonetheless, I don’t feel there’s grounds to assume that I went forward with any of those suggestions or would have acted on them.”
Houston added that the revealing of messages solely from Ibrahim and Baraldi was indicative of a direct attempt to specifically target them in an effort to sway the opinion of voters during the SSMU elections period.
“Of nearly  names, all were redacted except for Lola’s and Kareem’s, and only select messages [from the Facebook thread] were posted and taken grossly out of context,” he told The Daily in an email.
In an email to The Daily, Baraldi similarly questioned the timing at which these Facebook messages were revealed on Reddit, calling the post “quite clearly calculated.”
“I am completely fine with this issue resurfacing and addressing concerns because I stand by my actions, but I am against the way in which it is being conducted, as a smear campaign with private and out-of-context screenshots,” Baraldi added.
Ibrahim told The Daily that he suspected that his rival candidate, Alexei Simakov, was involved in the scandal, saying he met with Simakov hours before Khan released his allegations, and their conversation led him to believe that Simakov knew of Khan’s impending post.
However, Simakov denied having had any pre-existing knowledge of the Facebook post of Khan’s message, arguing that, had he been aware of this information prior to the Facebook post, he “would’ve obviously leaked it beforehand.”
“Tariq reached out to me with advice, but I declined. He was politically toxic.”
While speaking to The Daily, Khan said, “I know Kareem more than Alexei Simakov. I’ve rarely met with Alexei Simakov – two or three times.”
Simakov did mention that Khan had attempted to associate with his campaign. “Tariq reached out to me with advice, but I declined. He was politically toxic,” Simakov said.
“I don’t want to undermine the importance of bringing issues to light, I think that’s very important, and I think some people did that during the campaign,” Ibrahim explained.
He continued, “People brought up issues such as ‘Farnangate,’ people brought up ‘Blurred Lines.’ These are important to students and I was more than happy to address those. But this effort in the last two days of campaigning, to bring up issues and to blow them out of proportion without me having [hacked Khan’s account] is completely unwarranted.”