Offensive online posts “undermine Canada’s democracy”, Steven Guilbeault’s Heritage Department says

In a briefing note, Liberal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s department says offensive social media posts “put people’s safety at risk” and “undermine Canada’s democracy.”

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Blacklock’s reports that the briefing note says that regulation of hurtful and offensive comments is needed for “a truly democratic debate,”.

“This content steals and damages lives,” wrote Heritage staff. “It intimidates and obscures valuable voices, preventing a truly democratic debate.”

On June 23, 2021, Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act and to make related amendments to another Act (hate propaganda, hate crimes and hate speech) was introduced to crack down on “online hate speech”. The legislation “would apply to public communications by individual users on the internet, including on social media, on personal websites and in mass emails,” blog posts, online news sites, “operators of websites that primarily publish their own content” and user comment sections.

The bill defines ‘hatred’ as “the emotion that involves detestation or vilification and that is stronger than dislike or disdain;

The legislation could lead to internet users suspected of posting content that promotes “detestation or vilification” with house arrest or $70,000 fines, Blocklock’s reports

Internet speech regulation is not a new issue the Canadian government is looking towards, in a January 2020 report entitled “Canada’s communications future: Time to act“ from the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel, the panel called for the government “at home and in the international context” to introduce legislation to curb “harmful content” online.

“When it comes to harmful content, we recommend actions by the government both here at home and in the international context. The federal government should introduce legislation with respect to liability for harmful content and conduct using communications technologies – separate and apart from any responsibilities that may be imposed through communications legislation. Since Canada is not alone in trying to grapple with issues related to harmful content, we also encourage the federal government to continue its active participation in international fora and activities to develop international best practices on harmful content.”

The January 2020 report “Canada’s communications future: Time to act“ calls for ”reimagining the role of the regulator” saying “Fundamental changes to the role of the CRTC are needed.”

The panel recommends a name change of the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) to “the Canadian Communications Commission” in order “To reflect these changes in role and scope” of the commission.

Its current name – the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission – is out of step in a world that has moved beyond conventional radio and television stations, and in which telecommunications now encompasses a wide range of electronic communications.

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