Twitter posts are “undermining Canada’s democracy,” said Canada’s Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault in a briefing note, who is urging regulation of hurtful comments for “a truly democratic debate."
Cabinet on June 23 introduced Bill C-36 An Act To Amend The Criminal Code that threatens Facebook, Twitter and YouTube users suspected of posting content that promotes “detestation or vilification” with house arrest or $70,000 fines. The heritage department promised public consultation on the bill, according to Blacklock's.
“This content steals and damages lives,” wrote staff. “It intimidates and obscures valuable voices, preventing a truly democratic debate.”
“Our objective is to ensure more accountability and transparency from online platforms while respecting the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms,” said the June 16 briefing note Regulation Of Social Media Platforms. “The mandate of the Department of Canadian Heritage includes the promotion of a greater understanding of human rights.”
Parliament in 1970 banned hate speech under the Criminal Code. Bill C-36 would expand the law to prohibit hurtful remarks without evidence any crime was committed.
“Social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter are increasingly central to participation in democratic, cultural and public life,” said the briefing note: “However, social media platforms can also be used to threaten, intimidate, bully and harass people or used to promote racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, misogynist and homophobic views that target communities, put people’s safety at risk and undermine Canada’s social cohesion or democracy.”
The briefing note provided no examples.
The Department of Justice in a June 23 Backgrounder to Bill C-36 said it “would apply to public communications by individual users on the internet, including on social media, on personal websites and in mass emails,” blog posts, online news sites, “operators of websites that primarily publish their own content” and user comment sections.
62 percent of Canadians fear federal regulation of the internet will curb lawful speech, according to a July 5 survey by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority.
“With the federal government considering legislation that could have far reaching impacts on social media, a healthy majority of Canadians agree with the concept of a law that would require platforms to remove illegal or harmful content,” said the survey report Canadians Deserve A Better Internet. “But their attitudes are tempered by concerns about hampering free expression.”
“The question remains whether Canada will commit to a democratic and open internet that puts people first, or will it put a damper on the greatest transformative economic force of our time?” said Better Internet. “As internet regulation looms, public opinion on these issues matters more than ever,” the report added.