BY: ANTHONY FUREY
There’s been quite a disconnect happening within the Liberal cabinet in recent weeks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has for months now been going on and on and on about the need for social media giants to clean up their act when it comes to ambiguous terms like hate speech and misinformation or face his legislative wrath.
It seems the fix may have been in from the start, as it’s unclear what specific instructions companies like Facebook and Twitter were even given. Regardless, it looks like their time is up and the Liberals are determined to bring in the restrictions.
Little problem though. They’ve offered no specific definitions of these terms.
There’s an old joke that goes: “What’s hate speech? It’s speech we hate!”
Is Trudeau trying to just ban people from saying mean things about him, people wonder. It seems at first like a ludicrous question, something no mature politician would do. But it needs to be asked if only because the issue is still so vague that nothing can be ruled out.
Trudeau seized about the issue of the Christchurch mosque tragedy to ramp up his calls for banning hate speech. He used his attendance at a conference in France to highlight these imminent regulations, allowing the mass shooting to act as something of a shield for these regulations.
Then earlier this week Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains announced the new Digital Charter, that covers a whole pile of changes to the rules that govern our online lives. Hate speech, misinformation and electoral interference are just one small part of that plan.
Here’s where the disconnect comes in.
While Trudeau is going on non-stop about hate speech, Bains hardly mentions it, more focused on industry issues around privacy and copyright.
Then there’s the new Justice Minister David Lametti, returning to the hate speech issue in a recent interview with The Toronto Star: “He said the purpose of Trudeau’s Paris commitment was to begin to share information with France and New Zealand and call on other countries to join the Christchurch Call. Lametti said several solutions are under consideration, from using the courts, changing the criminal code, creating a regulatory body or advancing the powers of existing regulators such as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.”
Those are some pretty broad options under consideration. Changing the criminal code? Creating a whole new regulatory body to police hate speech? We’re going to need more specifics on this.
Canadians take free speech quite seriously. They understand those old slogans that there is no such thing as freedom from the offence or that one may not agree with that someone has to say but they’ll fight for their right to say it. This appears to be a departure from that spirit.
What would these criminal code changes be? It’s already illegal to slander and libel someone. It’s also illegal to make threats and to incite violence. How broad will the laws become?
There’s a lot in the Digital Charter. But it now appears there’s also a whole lot coming that isn’t in it. And that’s what we should be worried about.