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On Legislation to Tackle Online Harm

On Legislation to Tackle Online Harm

Updated on April 2nd, 2021

FRIENDS has been calling for the federal government to do more to tackle online harm. For too long, platforms like Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Pornhub have been able to publish illegal content in Canada with impunity.

Our research shows that companies like Facebook and Pornhub should be held liable for amplifying and promoting illegal content under existing Canadian law.

While FRIENDS believes that the federal government should be looking to the courts, it is clear that Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault wants additional tools to address this issue.

As we wait for the Minister to present his plan, here are some key considerations that FRIENDS believes must be included in the bill:

Takedowns are not enough

No list of specific harms

Personal liability for executives

Go after the money

Bottom line:

Don't accept that illegal content will dominate our online experiences, only to be removed later. Having a regulator compel a platform to remove a video within 24 hours isn't good enough. The damage to individuals is already done. We need to ensure that a clear message is sent to companies that they will pay the price for allowing illegal content to be published on their platform in the first place.

What can we do straight away?

The rumour mill is working overtime in Ottawa right now and we could be going into a federal election in the not too distant future. We can't afford to wait to start tackling online harm. So what can the Canadian government do straight away?

Start with C-10

The bill proposed by Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault contradicts the online harm reduction measures that he is proposing to address in a future bill. Changes to section 4.1(1) would exempt social media companies from the Broadcasting Act, and in so doing, exempt them from provisions of the Act which clearly state that they are responsible for the content they disseminate. The Minister is effectively saying in one Bill that platforms are not responsible for third-party content and then plans to introduce another Bill which says they are. This seems like a massive oversight on the part of the Minister. FRIENDS has submitted that parliamentarians can address this problem by making sure that platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Pornhub are included under the Broadcasting Act as appropriate.

Use existing laws

Parliamentarians don’t need to wait for new laws to deal with online harm. They don’t need to define harmful content, police social media, or constrain free expression in any new way. All government needs to do is apply existing laws and encourage the correct authorities to start prosecuting.

Key People

Steven Guilbeault

Minister of Canadian Heritage

Steven Guilbeault succeeded Pablo Rodriguez as Minister of Canadian Heritage in 2019. Minister Guilbeault's mandate includes the CBC and other critical cultural institutions.

David Lametti

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

As Minister responsible for the Department of Justice, David Lametti is the government's legal representative

Bill Blair

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

The Minister is responsible for working with the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to take action on combatting hate groups and online hate and harassment.

Facebook, YouTube, Pornhub

Online platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Pornhub are now well known for spreading harmful and illegal content with disastrous consequences for individuals and our communities.

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