On the heels of an overarching second approach to how content is made and distributed online in Canada through Bill C-11 the government of Canada is releasing results on its effort to address harmful content online.
On July 29th, 2021, the Government of Canada published a legislative and regulatory proposal to confront harmful content online for consultation on its website. Interested parties were invited to submit written comments to the Government via email. Feedback both recognized the proposal as a foundation upon which the Government could build and identified a number of areas of concern.
There was support from a majority of respondents for a legislative and regulatory framework, led by the federal government, to confront harmful content online. Specifically, respondents were largely supportive of the following elements of the proposed regime:
- A framework that would apply to all major platforms;
- The exclusion of private and encrypted communications and telecommunications services;
- Accessible and easy-to-use flagging mechanisms and clear appeal processes for users;
- The need for platform transparency and accountability requirements;
- The creation of new regulatory machinery to administer and enforce the regime;
- Ensuring that the regulatory scheme protects Canadians from real-world violence emanating from the online space; and
- The need for appropriate enforcement tools to address platform non-compliance.
Ensuring that the regulatory scheme protects Canadians from real-world violence emanating from the online space; and The need for appropriate enforcement tools to address platform non-compliance. However, respondents identified a number of overarching concerns including concerns related to the freedom of expression, privacy rights, the impact of the proposal on certain marginalized groups, and compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms more generally.
Today, the Government of Canada is sharing the outcomes of its consultations on the regulation of online harms.
In a press release sent today Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage said:
“We are committed to ensuring that online platforms provide safe and respectful experiences for Canadians to engage and share information with one another. This is a very important and complex issue. I want to thank everyone who participated in this consultation and provided their input on the proposed framework. We will continue to engage stakeholders and Canadians in order to get this right.”
Canadian Heritage consulted with Canadians, social media platforms, stakeholders, industry, academia, civil society and others to explore the issues and challenges
The government went on to say: “The internet and online platforms help us stay connected, share information with one another and stay informed on important issues. That is why, now more than ever, we need to ensure that Canadians can share information and communicate with one another online in a safe and respectful space, free from harm. We need to take action to stop the spread of harmful content.
From July 29 to September 25, 2021, Canadian Heritage consulted with Canadians, social media platforms, stakeholders, industry, academia, civil society and others to explore the issues and challenges in developing a legislative and regulatory framework to manage the proliferation of harmful content online.
Today, the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, released the report What We Heard: The Government’s proposed approach to address harmful content online.
The report highlights that the overwhelming majority of respondents agree the Government of Canada needs to take action to confront harmful content. However, respondents raised concerns around the complexity of this issue and warned about unintended consequences if a thoughtful approach is not taken. In the coming weeks, the Department of Canadian Heritage will engage a group of experts whose mandate will be to collaborate with stakeholders and Canadians, in order to provide the Government with advice on how to adjust the proposal. This work will be carried out in a transparent and expedited manner, and the Minister will propose a revised framework as soon as possible. The Government of Canada is committed to getting this right and to doing so as quickly as possible.
What We Heard: The Government’s proposed approach to address harmful content online quick facts:
Harmful content, such as hate speech, sexual exploitation of children and incitement to violence, is published online every day. There are no broad regulatory requirements in Canada that apply to platforms regarding their responsibilities in relation to such content.
As outlined in the 2021 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada is committed to fighting harmful content online by working toward a more equitable and safer Internet.
On July 29, 2021, the Government of Canada launched a public consultation seeking Canadians’ views on a detailed technical discussion paper that outlined a proposal for regulating online platforms and combating certain types of harmful content online.
The release of What We Heard: The Government’s proposed approach to address harmful content online is based on 422 unique responses and 8,796 individual submissions. This is an important step in identifying gaps in order to develop a legislative and regulatory framework to address the issue of harmful content online in the near future.”