Liberals plan legislation to censor social media “hate speech”

Liberals plan legislation to censor social media “hate speech”
The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet plans to introduce legislation this year that will tamp down on Twitter and Facebook posts that are considered to be hurtful or offensive.

Though hate speech is already forbidden in Canada, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault's office has circulated a briefing note that outlines the Liberal government's intentions.

“We intend a comprehensive approach with the tabling of a bill in early 2021 that will apply to the various platforms,” Heritage department staff said in a a briefing note titled Regulation Of Social Media Platforms, as reported in Blacklock's Reporter.

“We are working to introduce regulations to reduce the spread of illegal content, including hate speech, in order to promote a safer and more inclusive online environment. We want to protect Canadians online.”

The note continued on, mentioning how platforms like Facebook and Twitter were becoming an increasingly important aspect of participating in “democratic, cultural and public life.” These social media outlets, however, may 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 and risk and undermine Canada’s social cohesion or democracy.”

Canadian Heritage isn't the only department working on the plan either, according to the note. Canada's Department of Justice suggested in a document from 2020 titled Consultation Paper: Online Hate that it needed to “develop options for legal remedies” with regard to posts on Facebook and Twitter that were deemed offensive.

In 2018, then-Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould's office responded to a B.C. man's request regarding the repealed portion — Section 13, which was repealed in 2013 — of the Canadian Human Rights Act. 

“I note your suggestion that the Government should bring back the legislation that was in the Canadian Human Rights Act to deal with hate messages on the internet,” Wilson-Raybould's office said. “It may interest you to know that this option is currently under review. I will take your comments into consideration.”

That portion of the Human Rights Act was repealed, following numerous unsuccessful challenges made by Muslim groups upset about an online commentary written by the conservative Mark Steyn in a 2007 issue of Maclean's magazine. Steyn suggested that "native populations are aging and fading and being supplanted remorselessly by a young Muslim demographic." The complaints were rejected by human rights commissions in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.
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