Big Tech silent on Trudeau's latest censorship law

'Have you heard anything from social media platforms, especially after we saw Meta pull out of [sharing] Canadian news with their opposition to Bill C-18?' asked a reporter on Tuesday. 'I've not heard a … formal response from platforms,' replied Justice Minister Arif Virani.

Big Tech silent on Trudeau's latest censorship law
The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick
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The Trudeau Liberals attempted to clarify Tuesday that their 'online harms' bill is not censorship legislation and does not have the intent on alienating social media platforms.

"Have you heard anything from social media platforms, especially after we saw Meta pull out of [sharing] Canadian news with their opposition to Bill C-18?" asked a reporter on Tuesday. "I've not heard a … formal response from platforms," replied Justice Minister Arif Virani.

"We want platforms operating in Canada, but we want them operating at a baseline standard of safety," he added.

Bill C-18, The Online News Act, compels Meta and Google to negotiate revenue-sharing deals with media publications in Canada for sharing content to their platforms. In protest, Meta blocked access to Canadian news in the country on August 1 to demonstrate their vehement opposition to Bill C-18, which Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge condemned.

"Taking away the right for users to share news and journalistic information to their family and friends is not a right way to build trust with a community, especially in a context where there is so much misinformation and disinformation going around," said the heritage minister.

It prevented users from sharing news with friends and families impacted by last year’s record-breaking wildfire season. 

"There is no good reason to ban Canadian news," said St-Onge. 

Facebook conveyed that regulations would not improve the flawed bill. St-Onge said her department would not amend the legislation.

On Monday, the Trudeau Liberals tabled Bill C-63, An Act to enact the Online Harms Act, in Parliament to supposedly protect Canadians from accessing harmful content online.

According to a government briefing, Canadian users are "exposed to harmful content at increasing rates." However, the briefing did not define harmful content.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters February 20 that the bill would focus on protecting the kids, not censorship. "We need to do a better job keeping kids safe online from child sexual exploitation," he added the following day.

Before the winter parliamentary recess, the Trudeau Liberals quietly reviewed the "international best practices" on internet censorship. But Virani did not provide examples at the time of legal content they would censor.

A similar piece of legislation, Bill C-36, An Act To Amend The Criminal Code, identified 'hate speech' as a category of harm that later died on the order paper.

But Virani maintains the 'online harms' bill does not undermine freedom of speech. "It enhances free expression by empowering all people to safely participate in online debate," he told reporters on Monday.

Yet briefing documents say the law will "better address and denounce hate propaganda” by proposing several amendments to the Criminal Code and adding a definition of "hatred" to section 319 of the Criminal Code

"We've got freedom of expression on one hand, which creates a vibrant democracy and allows us to differentiate ourselves from other parts of the world," Virani said in a statement last December.

"And we've got the pressure to ensure that when people are communicating online, they're not actually targeting groups, they're not promoting or vilifying groups, promoting hatred or violence against them," he added.

Bill C-63 also seeks to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to stipulate that online 'hate speech' is discrimination and empower people to file complaints.

According to the new legislation, victims of 'hate speech' could be compensated up to $20,000, with stand-alone hate crimes being added to the Criminal Code.

"I find it troubling that we got more rules that relate to the Legos in my kid’s basement than we do for the most dangerous toy in every Canadian household — the smartphone their children are in front of," Virani told reporters.

Four in 10 Canadians are exposed to online 'hate speech' on a weekly basis, contends the government briefing.

"We need to establish baseline standards to protect children and vulnerable Canadians from hate," he added.

Rebel News attempted to seek clarification from government officials on Bill C-63 during a technical briefing Monday but did not receive a response at the time of writing.

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