The Government of Canada has announced a new “expert” advisory group on online safety as the next step in enforcing censorship and regulating the Internet.
On 30th March 22, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, David Lametti, announced a new expert advisory group on online safety as the next step in developing legislation to address harmful online content.
The expert advisory group will be mandated by the Government of Canada to provide advice on a legislative and regulatory framework that best addresses what the Government of Canada deems to be harmful content online.
The group is composed of diverse “experts” and specialists from across Canada who will contribute their knowledge and experience from a variety of fields:
- Amarnath Amarasingam, Assistant Professor, School of Religion, Queen’s University
- Bernie Farber, Chair, Canada Anti-Hate Network
- Chanae Parsons, Community Activist and Youth Engagement Specialist
- David Morin, Full Professor, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Université de Sherbrooke
- Emily Laidlaw, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary
- Ghayda Hassan, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal
- Heidi Tworek, Associate Professor, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and History, University of British Columbia
- Lianna McDonald, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Child Protection
- Pierre Trudel, Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal
- Signa A. Daum Shanks, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
- Taylor Owen, Beaverbrook Chair, Media, Ethics and Communications
- Vivek Krishnamurthy, Samuelson-Glushko Professor of Law, University of Ottawa
The expert advisory group will hold nine workshops to discuss various components of a legislative and regulatory framework for online safety. They will also take part in additional stakeholder engagement, including with digital platforms.
The group’s mandate, the supporting materials for each session, and non-attributed summaries of all sessions and discussions will be published. All Canadians can follow the progress of these discussions on how the Government of Canada will enforce censorship and regulate the Internet.
“It’s clear that harmful online content is a serious problem, but there is no consensus on how to address it. We’re asking the expert advisory group to go back to the drawing board.” Said Pablo Rodriques, Minister of Canadian Heritage.
“We need to address this problem openly and transparently as a society. I’m grateful to the experts who will dedicate their time and experience in the next few months to helping us tackle this complex issue. It’s too important to not get right.”
Back in July 2021, the Government of Canada launched a public consultation seeking Canadians’ views on a detailed technical discussion paper that outlined a proposal for regulating online platforms and combating certain types of harmful content online.
The proposal was published by the Ministers of Canadian Heritage, Justice, and Public Safety, and it contemplated the creation of rules for how social media platforms and other online services must address harmful content. The proposal set out:
- Which entities would be subject to the new rules;
- What types of harmful content would be regulated;
- New rules and obligations for regulated entities;
- New regulatory bodies to administer and oversee the new framework and enforce its rules and obligations;
- Amendments to An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service (the Mandatory Reporting Act); and
- Amendments to the CSIS Act.
The public consultation closed on September 25th, 2021. It solicited 422 unique responses and 8,796 submissions from open campaigns. Of the 422 unique responses: 350 were from individuals; 39 were from civil society and other organisations; 19 were from industry; 13 were from academics; and 2 were from Government or Government-adjacent organisations.
This led to the release of What We Heard: The Government’s proposed approach to address harmful content online. Unfortunately, many of those responses called for even tighter censorship to be enforced by the Government of Canada.
‘A subset of respondents called for broadening the scope of regulated entities to include other types of online services that play a role in making illegal content accessible to users. A few called for the regime to apply to all Internet service providers that participate in making content accessible to end users.’
‘Respondents argued that the legislation should capture, at least in part, private communication and encrypted services. These respondents advocated that, at minimum, requirements for user notice and transparency reporting should be placed on these services.‘
‘Respondents stated that additional types of content, such as disinformation, bullying, harassment, defamation, conspiracy theories and illicit online opioid sales should also be captured by the legislative and regulatory framework.‘
The problem with all of the above of course, is that it is all open to interpretation, and that interpretation falls to a Government that recently attacked its own citizens and froze their bank accounts simply for opposing Draconian Government mandates in the name of Covid-19.
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