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Man charged after allegedly impersonating N.S. staffer in racist social media post

Visitors attend a session of the Nova Scotia legislature, at Province House, in Halifax on Thursday, March 24, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan Visitors attend a session of the Nova Scotia legislature, at Province House, in Halifax on Thursday, March 24, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
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A Halifax-area man faces an impersonation charge in connection with a social media post characterized as antisemitic that led to the firing of a Nova Scotia political staffer last fall.

Halifax Regional Police say 25-year-old Samual Shaji was arrested in Bedford, N.S., on Feb. 7 and is scheduled to appear in court at a later date.

The arrest follows a report police say they received on Oct. 17 about a person who had accessed a social media account associated with a government employee and used it to share an antisemitic message.

In a court document filed last month, the government employee, Nargis DeMolitor, gave notice she was suing the Nova Scotia premier's office for wrongful dismissal over the incident. DeMolitor was working for Labour Minister Jill Balser and was fired Oct. 18 by Nicole LaFosse Parker, the premier's chief of staff.

DeMolitor's statement of claim, which has not been tested in court, alleges the social media post was made by an unnamed Progressive Conservative Party member who "admitted to the act" following an investigation by the premier's office.

It says the member had been hired to manage DeMolitor's social media accounts between January and March 2023, and that the employee's contract had ended and the passwords were changed "on or about April 18, 2023."

The post on X -- formerly known as Twitter -- has been deleted, but it was shared with journalists by the Opposition Liberals last October. It read, "Israel must stop being the Nazis of the 21st century. Killing innocent Palestinians for political gain is inhumane and dictatorial. Free Palestine Now."

Premier Tim Houston told reporters at the legislature last October that an internal investigation determined the post resulted from unauthorized access to the account, the result of a provincial employee sharing their social media login information with an "individual outside of government."

He called it a "breach of trust" and told reporters that the "individual" no longer worked for the province, adding there was "no place for hate in the PC Party or in Nova Scotia."

Although it's not clear exactly how DeMolitor's account was accessed, Joe Stewart, principal security researcher for eSentire, a cybersecurity company based in Waterloo, Ont., said there are situations in which people with prior access to social media accounts aren't always prompted for passwords to access them.

Stewart, who is based in Myrtle Beach, S.C., said social media managers often use management platforms and various mobile applications to do their work. Managers, he added, whose services are no longer required can keep access to social media accounts even when passwords are changed, if the entry permissions for previously connected apps aren't revoked and locked.

If those entry permissions aren't revoked, Stewart said, "anybody you gave access to your account that one time has access forever."

"This isn't hacking and isn't close to hacking it's just a side-effect of how social media account management works."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2024.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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