Trudeau has promised online hate reform by February 3. Experts say unlikely, but urge action – National
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promised timetable for online hate reforms is nearly up, with experts saying it seems “unlikely” the government will introduce the bill before February 3.
And while online hate has been escalating for years, some suggest a surge in recent weeks reinforces the need to crack down on social media companies for the content they allow on their platforms.
“It doesn’t look like the government is delivering on the 100-day promise at this point,” said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
“It’s time to realize it.”
The lack of clear and consistent enforcement of hateful content online means “incalculable harm has already been done” to the people and communities who are targeted, Balgord said.
But, he said, while some of the metaphorical horses may have come out of the barn, “there are still horses in that barn, and we should always close that door.”
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The Canadian Security Intelligence Service warned in 2020 that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are among extremist groups using the collective social trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories aimed at radicalizing others. .
CSIS noted in that report that the extremist language used frequently places blame for the pandemic on “Jews, China, immigrants, the government and social elites.”
There has also been a sharp rise in anti-Semitism in recent years.
The “urgency” to fight online hate is not new, said Richard Marceau, a former Bloc Québécois MP and now executive director of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs. The issue has been increasingly in the spotlight following the COVID-19 pandemic and after the display of Nazi flags and swastikas at a protest in Ottawa over the weekend.
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Although the event was described by many attendees as “peaceful”, some of the organizers have well-documented ties to extremist and white supremacist groups online.
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“It seems to be taking longer than expected. What we do not doubt, however, is the will of the government to come up with something fairly quickly,” Marceau said of the promised reforms, noting that it is possible to respect freedom of expression while repressing violence. hatred.
“So while we want it to be fast, we also want it to be done well.”
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The Liberal platform swore to “Introduce legislation within the first 100 days to tackle serious forms of harmful online content, in particular hate speech, terrorist content, content inciting violence, child pornography and the non-consensual distribution of images intimate.
“This would ensure that social media platforms and other online services are held accountable for the content they host,” the liberal platform said.
The platform also included a vow to “strengthen the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to more effectively combat online hate.”
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Trudeau was re-elected with a minority government in September 2021 and although consultations on online hate reform proposals concluded at the end of this month, it is unclear since when the government plans to introduce the proposals in the legislation.
The 100-day period began the day the cabinet was sworn in, meaning it ends on February 3.
A spokesman for the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, did not say whether the government intended to keep this promise.
“The vast majority of Canadians agree that the government must take action to counter radicalization, violence and hate speech. If it’s illegal in person, it should be illegal online,” publicist Laura Scaffidi said in an email.
“However, Canadians have also raised concerns about the complexity of this issue. We are moving as quickly as possible with stakeholders and Canadians to get it right.
Balgord said that while some elements of the original proposals have been challenged, such as a 24-hour takedown requirement for social media platforms when hateful content is reported to them, there are still ways to move quickly to get things done. mechanisms such as a mediator for the platforms in place.
“It has to happen now,” he said.
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