Canada government introduces draft online harms legislation News
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Canada government introduces draft online harms legislation

Canada’s government on Monday proposed draft legislation, known as Bill C-63, which aims to combat online hate and promote online safety through the enactment of the Online Harms Act. Bill C-63 also includes amendments to the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The Online Harms Act, a key component of Bill C-63, proposes the establishment of a new regulatory body called the Digital Safety Commission, which would be responsible for administering the framework and fostering a culture of online safety. The act also establishes a Digital Safety Ombudsperson, who would act as a point of contact and advocate for users’ needs and interests on systemic issues related to online safety.

To address the growing concern of online hate, the proposed legislation seeks to hold major companies accountable by requiring them to swiftly remove harmful content from their platforms, which would include sexually exploitative materials and content that incites violence or hatred. According to section 55 of the act, “[t]he operator of a regulated service must implement measures that are adequate to mitigate the risk that users of the service will be exposed to harmful content on the service.” The act also imposes the duty to protect children by integrating design features that respect the protection of children, such as age-appropriate design, under section 65 of the act.

Critics have expressed concerns that the legislation may be so broad as to infringe on individuals’ rights of expression. The government responded that it “will always uphold Canadians’ constitutional right to freedom of expression, which is essential in a healthy democracy.” According to section 6 of the Online Harms Act, private messages are explicitly excluded from the scope of the legislation.

The UK’s Parliament passed a similar Act in September 2023, and Australia passed its Online Safety Act in 2021.