Clement Goh, Senior Reporter
Tickets to popular free events at Humber College were reportedly being offered for sale on the internet in January.
Both the Aboriginal Resource Centre (ARC) and the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre claimed someone was charging for tickets to their respective events, this year’s Indigenous Knowledge Gathering and the monthly Tunnel Tour at Lakeshore.
While the events are free and open to the public, there is a limit to prevent overcapacity. This reportedly caused a few posts to circulate on social media, with guests selling their registered spots to others.
“The only problem with that is sometimes we do have to limit the number,” said Jennifer Bazar, curator of the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre.
She said she noticed a larger interest from the community for Lakeshore’s Tunnel Tour after it became a monthly event.
It peaked when the Interpretive Centre posted its first tour of 2019 before the college closed for the 2018 holidays. Soon, the event gained traction and caught the attention of sellers once attendance started to fill.
That’s when Bazar began to notice the sales on social media.
“I would screenshot each of those, delete the message because obviously our tickets are not for sale — they are free — and then checked our list to make sure it wasn’t somebody who was already registered,” Bazar said.
“Which led me to believe it was probably a bot,” she said, not ruling out Facebook’s algorithm for prioritizing event-based posts.
The Interpretive Centre also uses Eventbrite, a platform designed to make events easier to share across social media.
When the Centre discovered the issue, they posted an edit on their event page stating “January tour is FULL. Please delete messages from individuals attempting to sell tickets to this FREE event as spam.”
Facebook announced in an early 2018 statement it was making revisions to the way users saw certain posts, such as events connected to businesses.
Under a personal post, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that their new algorithm looked to “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.”
For the Interpretive Centre, they found none of the alleged sellers on Facebook were registered to them through Eventbrite.
“It sort of felt really very automated,” said Bazar, who claimed one of their Facebook followers received an offer described as being forceful.
“That upsets me, because that changes the nature of the openness of our events and I certainly don’t want somebody being approached like that unwillingly,” she said.
Bazar also noticed a similar issue with the ARC’s annual two-day Indigenous Knowledge Gathering at North and Lakeshore campuses.
Kaitlin Phillips, Aboriginal Student Support Adviser at Lakeshore’s ARC, says she had “no idea” how it began.
Like Bazar, they kept a record of the unauthorized listings and posted notices to followers urging them not to accept offers.
“We didn’t hear of anyone actually purchasing tickets or it going anywhere, we just saw the post once,” said Phillips, who was busy planning their department’s event.
“We just kind of wanted to make sure that no one got the wrong impression of what our event was and that no would be taken advantage of in that way because it’s free. It’s open,” she said. “It’s something we put on for the community and it’s an opportunity to share.”
Both departments share a value of making their events accessible for the public. For communities around Etobicoke, it also means being able to visit the campus without paying.
“We try and interpret the natural and built heritage of the area for everyone to have it freely accessible, so there’s no financial barriers for anyone who wants to access that information,” said Nadine Finlay, Curatorial Assistant who works with Bazar at the Interpretive Centre.
In selling the tickets, she believes others are trying to work around the guest limit of events.
When Finlay and Bazar tried to check the identities of “seller accounts” claiming to have a ticket, they found nothing hours later.
“It was pretty awful because we’re trying to imagine the visitors thinking that they now have an opportunity to get on-tour when we already said we are at capacity for this event – here’s our future events,” Finlay said.
“Then it creates another barrier, so someone says, ‘oh, if I can buy a ticket then I can get ahead of you,’ which is something we don’t want to promote,” she said.