Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rolled Canada’s new policy plan for tackling privacy and data networking with the new Digital Charter initiative. It all sounds good and dandy on top, but as they say the devil is in the details.
On May 21st, 2019 Trudeau posted a a short snippet from a speech about how they have plans on holding internet platforms accountable for what they do, or rather don’t do, when it comes to extremist content and “hate speech”.
You can view the clip below.
Social media platforms must be held accountable for the hate speech & disinformation we see online – and if they don’t step up, there will be consequences. We launched Canada’s new Digital Charter today to guide our decisions, learn more about it here: https://t.co/SH7mpyojsj pic.twitter.com/V2C0TmR49b
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 21, 2019
The link leads over to Canada’s Digital Charter page, which outlines the 10 principles of the charter, which includes universal access, safety and security, control and consent, open and modern digital government, data and digital for good, strong democracy, transparency, portability and interoperability, strong enforcement and accountability, and freedom from hate speech and extremism.
The last one is the interesting one because it’s tucked near the bottom of the list, and coincides with what Trudeau mentioned about curbing online “hate speech”. If you click through the link there’s a single paragraph that covers the reference to hate speech, which reads…
“Canada must continue to support researchers and civil society in understanding and addressing radicalization to violence online in Canada. The Government of Canada will also continue its bilateral and multilateral efforts to work with digital industry to better address violent extremist and terrorist use of the internet and online hate, in concert with other Federal Government efforts to address online harm.”
This “hate speech” isn’t defined anywhere on any of the web pages.
All we know is that Trudeau plans on holding platforms accountable for this nebulous term with “financial” consequences. But how can there be consequences for something that isn’t defined?
It’s an issue that’s also brushed over in the promotional video for the Digital Charter featuring Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation from the Science and Economic Development department.
Canada was pretty quick on the trigger to join the Christchurch Call so that’s no big surprise that they would want to crack down on “hate speech”, whatever that is.
However, this move to further penalize platforms for not cracking down on “hate speech” or “violent extremism” could open a dangerous door to censorship, especially since – as mentioned up above – the opaque usage of these terms are never defined.
The Digital Charter has gone live on May 21st, 2019, so we’ll see how this all plays out.