58% of Canadians oppose government regulating speech online – Heritage Minister pushes forward regardless

In-house government research from the Privy Council found that 58% of Canadians oppose federal government regulations of internet free speech, Blacklock’s reports.

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Earlier this year, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault announced that a new regulatory framework for online speech would be introduced in the House of Commons “soon”. 

During the committee in January, Minister Guilbeault said, “there will be a new regulator (to oversee the framework, which) will implement the new rules and monitor hate speech,”. Guilbeault added that the bill will add financial penalties for non-compliance. 

On the heels of Minister Guilbeault’s comments, Facebook Canada’s head of public policy Kevin Chan responded that the company welcomes more regulation of online speech by the government.

Likewise, Tim Denton, chair of the Internet Society of Canada and a former national commissioner for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), agreed with a regulatory framework telling iPolitics, “A lot of reasonable people think there needs to be a measure of government intervention … to restrict and codify (online hate speech), and to make it uniform and conform to various ideas of public policy,”. 

However, a survey conducted for the Government of Canada found that 58% of Canadians disagree with government intervention when asked about whether “The government should restrict access to the internet and social media to combat the spread of misinformation about Covid-19,”. 

This finding contradicts claims made by Minister Guilbeault that “a very high proportion of Canadians” want free speech regulation on the internet.

The regional breakdown in opposition to internet speech regulations is as follows:

Opposition to government regulation of speech on the internet is highest by Atlantic Canadians (63%); and lowest by Quebeckers (51%).

Canadawide only four percent of those surveyed said they “strongly agreed” that Parliament should regulate speech on the internet. 

The research also gave insights into other issues such as media trust. The researchers found that most Canadians generally did not trust media of all kinds including the CBC but that they still opposed regulation. 

The research found that when participants were asked, “How much do you trust the following sources of information in their reporting about Covid-19?”, only 10% of Canadians said they had little or “very little trust” in the CBC. 

Blacklock’s reported that the survey included 16,829 people and was conducted by Léger. The Privy Council Office paid $248,343 for the research Implementation Of The World Health Organization’s Behavioural Insights from Léger.

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