Federal government proposes new policies to crack down on hateful online content

Under these rules, online platforms like Facebook, Twitter and PornHub would be required to remove abusive content within 24 hours

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The Liberal government has laid out a proposal for rules that will help crack down on harmful content on the internet.

Specifically, the government suggests that major online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and PornHub should be deemed “online communications service providers” that be regulated under a new ‘Digital Safety Commission.’

This group would consist of a digital safety commissioner, a digital recourse council and an advisory board assisting both. Together, these bodies would require online platforms to remove the following five categories of abusive content within 24 hours:

  • Child sexual exploitation
  • Hate speech
  • Incitement to violence
  • Non-consensual sharing of intimate images
  • Terrorism

These categories draw from offences that are already outlined in Canada’s Criminal Code. In a July 29th media briefing, the government cited the 2017 attack on a Quebec City mosque and the 2019 mosque attack in Christchurch, New Zealand as examples of instances where people became radicalized by content online and/or content related to these incidents were not removed from social media platforms.

Failure to comply with these rules would result in fines of $25 million or up to five percent of a platform’s gross global revenue, whichever is higher. As the Canadian Press notes, this would mean, as an example, that Facebook would have to pay as much as $5.4 billion, based on its revenues from last year.

However, this regulation would not include messaging apps like WhatsApp or telecom companies like Bell, Rogers or Telus.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, may come about from this proposal, but with rumours abound of a possible federal election in the fall, we might hear more in due time.

For now, the government is seeking public feedback on the proposal — you can read more about that here.

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