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Canada Proposes New Law to Make Tech Giants Remove Harmful Content

Published February 27, 2024
4 months ago

In an ambitious move to combat harmful online content, the Canadian government has revealed a proposed set of regulations called the Online Harms Act. Announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the legislation aims to compel technology firms operating in Canada to eradicate a swath of content types deemed detrimental to society, with a special focus on protecting children.

This seminal draft legislation could revolutionize social media and content hosting platforms operations within Canadian jurisdiction. It outlines a rigorous framework by which tech behemoths like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are expected to take immediate action upon notice of harmful content on their services.

The Online Harms Act transcends mere policy change; it represents a concerted response to a growing public outcry over the prevalence of hate speech, violent extremism, child exploitation, and cyberbullying. Seven categories of harmful content are outlined in the act: intimate images shared without consent, content promoting hate, violent extremism or terrorism advocacy, incitements to violence, cyberbullying targeting minors, and content leading to self-harm among children.

Upon passing, Canadians would acquire the right to demand the removal of such content within an expedited 24-hour window. This involves a review process, alongside presenting the option to lodge formal grievances against individuals disseminating hate speech via a human rights tribunal.

The introduction of a Digital Safety Commission is a core component of the new law, tasked with enforcing these standards. Moreover, the Act mandates that digital platforms incorporate robust measures such as parental controls and safe search functions to shield minors from potential online hazards.

The driving force behind this legal initiative is a governmental commitment to ensuring digital spaces do not compromise the safety and wellbeing of users, particularly children. Trudeau has emphatically stated that the era of tech companies’ insufficient regulation to guard the vulnerable is over.

While the government asserts that the Online Harms Act upholds Canadians' freedom of expression, it seeks to harmonize this with the necessity of a safer, more respectful online environment.

However, Trudeau's government faces stiff opposition from conservatives, led by Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre, who challenge the prospective limitations on free speech imposed by the Act.

The law's progression through the parliamentary committee and the Senate suggests a period of introspection and potential amendment before it arrives at its final form. If passed, Canada joins the ranks of other Western nations that have enacted or are pursuing similar online regulation measures, notably the United Kingdom and members of the European Union, spotlighting a decisive international trend focused on reigning in digital platform responsibilities.

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