Most Canadians consider online information reliable and are confident they can tell when it's not, said internal polling by the Heritage Department. Yet, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault proposed "concrete action" to police news and information on the internet.
"A majority, 80 percent, believe the online content they consume is factual and truthful," said a pollsters' report Diversity Of Content Online: Public Perceptions And Awareness In Canada And Abroad, reported Blacklock's.
"Two-thirds of Canadians, 66 percent, feel confident in their ability to tell if online content is fair and balanced."
"Canadians largely believe having access to different sources of information with different points of view is important for people to participate in a democracy," said Public Perceptions. The report added: "Most participants were confident in their abilities to consider various sources and ensure they are being presented with 'the full picture.'"
Guilbeault, last July 2, issued a report Guiding Principles On Diversity Of Online Content, to instruct media on how to report news and information. "We can no longer ignore the challenges and opportunities that come with an increasingly digital world," he said.
"We have to act now to ensure a healthy ecosystem online for all citizens."
It reads that reporters, editors and commentators must "foster greater exposure to diverse cultural content, information and news" and "contribute to a healthier public discourse, greater social inclusion within society, bolster resilience to disinformation and misinformation and increase our citizens' ability to participate in democratic processes."
The guide defined misinformation as "false or misleading content shared without harmful intent though the effects can still be harmful, e.g. when people share false information with friends and family in good faith." The document did not explain who within the Department of Heritage would monitor news deemed to be harmful.
Cabinet on June 23 introduced Bill C-36, An Act To Amend The Criminal Code, threatening $70,000 fines or house arrest for any internet publisher, blogger or social media user suspected of posting legal content promoting "detestation or vilification."
The RCMP on July 19 said the bill would "see more things through to charges" involving Facebook users and bloggers. The bill would also allow investigations into publishers from those who complain, including anonymous complaints.
Guilbeault said the bill aimed to create a safer internet.
Guilbeault added his department would detail "concrete action they will take to implement the guiding principles" within a year. The document did not describe enforcement measures.
"Any measure to address disinformation and misinformation should ensure respect for the right to freedom of expression," it said.
"Ethical journalistic standards should be upheld and encouraged," said the guide, adding: "Information about media ownership and funding sources should be made accessible to the public and transparent to safeguard a diverse and pluralistic media ecosystem."
"We have to use as many tools as possible to deal with this," said Guilbeault. "There is no silver bullet to deal with this."
Bill C-36 lapsed with the adjournment of the last Parliament. But cabinet intends to reintroduce the controversial legislation this fall.