Online harm: Minister Rodriguez says it happens
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said that in the face of considerable attention to the increase in hate and harassment online, the federal government believes it has an “obligation” to push forward legislative changes and regulations to stifle harmful content.
“There is a consensus that we have to do something. Not everyone agrees on what exactly, but the fact that the status quo is not possible. And whoever says ‘oh no, no, you shouldn’t do anything about it’ a to justify why the status quo is acceptable,” Rodriguez told reporters at the Liberal cabinet retreat in Vancouver, referring to his ongoing consultations on the plan.
Rodriguez said that while the internet has brought many benefits, “people see things they shouldn’t see on the internet, face threats, get all kinds of things, very nasty things…and it is our obligation as a government to act.”
As CTVNews.ca previously reported, after receiving heaps of widely critical feedback and returning to the drawing board with the help of experts over the past few months, sources familiar with the matter said the government always considering how to approach complex legislation.
The pledge originated with the intention of requiring “providers of online communication services”, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, to be more accountable and transparent in dealing with five types of harmful content. on their platforms: hate speech, exploitation of children, sharing of non-consensual images, incitement to violence and terrorism.
The Liberals’ intent in promising to advance an ‘online safety’ bill, they say, was to ensure that the kinds of behavior that are illegal in person are also illegal online, emphasizing on public content.
Among the ideas put forward in the government’s initial proposal were the implementation of a 24-hour takedown requirement for content deemed harmful; require platforms to provide data on their algorithms and provide justification for when action is taken on flagged posts; and the installation of a new system allowing Canadians to appeal platform decisions regarding content moderation.
Beyond seeking expert advice, this summer Rodriguez and his department’s top officials traveled across the country to host roundtables with stakeholders and representatives of minority groups. Public hearings to hear Canadians’ concerns are expected to continue into the fall, to better shed light on the scope of the legislation.
Referencing some of the pushbacks that have arisen from the government’s plans – including accusations of infringing on free speech – Rodriguez said free speech is “fundamental” to this legislation.
“But at the same time, if people say ‘oh no, I’m not going online anymore, I’m not commenting anymore, I’m not writing anymore because I’m scared’, then you’re limiting freedom of expression. We don’t don’t want that,” the minister said.
The Liberals have already exceeded their campaign pledge to pass a “balanced and focused” online harms bill within the first 100 days of their 2021 post-election mandate.
Given the significant work that remains before the bill is completed, sources told CTVNews.ca that this fall is unlikely to happen, with early 2023 seeming to be the most realistic timeframe.
Asked Wednesday about the bill’s current timeline, Rodriguez did not elaborate, saying he hopes to introduce it “as soon as possible.”