House of Commons rejects Derek Sloan's motion to sanction Facebook, Twitter over censorship of parliamentarians

House of Commons rejects Derek Sloan's motion to sanction Facebook, Twitter over censorship of parliamentarians
The Canadian Press / Justin Tang
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The House of Commons rejected Derek Sloan's move to “strongly defend the rights of parliamentarians against the outside interference of social media companies” and to “officially sanction Facebook and Twitter for their actions in suppressing parliamentary speech.”

Independent MP Sloan (Hastings—Lennox and Addington) proposed the motion after a Liberal MP told him that he should “rethink his choices” if social media companies are suppressing his press conferences.

“Mr. Speaker, last week I hosted a Parliamentary press conference on the censorship of Canadian doctors and medical experts. Their testimony was truly shocking. Unfortunately, Facebook stopped my livestream in mid-conference. Despite this, the full press conference is now the most viewed video in history on CPAC's YouTube channel, with over 500,000 views.

“However, on Facebook and Twitter, they're still restricting the sharing of this video on their platforms.

Given the importance to democracy, of Canadians seeing official parliamentary functions, does the minister denounce this censorship by Big Tech?”

Liberal MP Jennifer O'Connell (Pickering—Uxbridge) answered:

“Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the dissemination of misinformation and regarding this pandemic, I think the member opposite should... understand his role and responsibility as a parliamentarian and the trust that his constituents placed in him, this pandemic is serious, requires a serious response, and I would urge him to follow the rules. If Facebook won't even allow what he's saying to be put up, perhaps, Mr. Speaker, he should rethink his choices.”

“I'm afraid that's all the time we have for question period today,” said the Speaker.

Sloan later rose on a point of order:

“Thank you Mr. Speaker, I just had a brief point of order —I want to seek unanimous consent for a motion that I'll declare here briefly. As I mentioned in my question, I did a parliamentary press conference that was censored by Facebook and I've had other people reach out to me and say that they are unable to share this.

“I think that's problematic — anything that goes on this House should be freely able to be shared by Canadians and I just wanted to share this motion that I'd like to seek unanimous consent on.

“That the House recognize that the House of Commons itself, and the Parliament of Canada are a bastion of democracy and free speech. Members of Parliament enjoy special parliamentary privileges overseeing their ability to speak freely in Parliament to discharge their duties freely and without constraint. Any Canadian seeking to share digital content of Parliamentary functions should be able to do so freely and without constraint. The Government must strongly defend the rights of parliamentarians against the outside interference of social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter and (b) call on the Government to recognize that any potential suppression of information or censorship of parliamentary events such as official press conferences can not be allowed to happen, and to officially sanction Facebook and Twitter for their actions.

After hearing some “nays,” the Speaker declared that the motion did not have unanimous consent.

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