Canada government proposes new framework to address harmful online content
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Canada government proposes new framework to address harmful online content

The Canadian Liberal government has proposed a new legislative and regulatory framework to address harmful content through social media platforms and online communications.

The proposal was released online Thursday as a consultation step and will allow Canadians to provide feedback until the end of September. The bill is set to be introduced in the fall of 2021. The bill will become part of a web of legislation aimed at combatting hate speech and other harms such as hate crimes. Relatedly, Bill C-36 was introduced in June 2021 to provide legal remedies for victims of hate speech and hate crimes. This bill would complement the current proposed legislation.

The new legislation would consist of two modules that will target five categories of harmful content: terrorist content, content that incites violence, hate speech, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, and child sexual exploitation content. Module one would target harmful online content on major online communication platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and Pornhub. The regulated entities would be required to make reasonable efforts to make harmful online content inaccessible in Canada. In addition, law enforcement and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) would exercise new roles in identifying public safety threats and preventing related violence. A new Digital Safety Commission of Canada would also be created to support three bodies under the new regime: the Digital Safety Commissioner of Canada, the Digital Recourse Council of Canada, and an Advisory Board.

Module two would modify Canada’s existing legal framework. In addition to Bill C-36, further amendments would be made to existing legal framework, including the Mandatory Reporting Act and Canadian Security and Intelligence Act. The former legislation would be amended to equip the government to better deal with the sharing of online content concerning child sexual exploitation. The latter legislation would be amended to assist CSIS in identifying and investigating online threats.

In relation to this proposal, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault stated, “What we’re presenting to Canadians reflects what we feel is the best way forward.” He added, “We’re asking platforms to take their responsibilities in ways that they haven’t so far and so I think that for the vast majority of Canadians, what we’re proposing will make a lot of sense.”

There are potential options for consideration in the regulatory framework as the government considers different avenues to balance public interests. Guilbeault has commented that the decisions are not final as this proposal is part of a “genuine consultation process.”