Catherine McKenna threatens social media with government regulation

Liberal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna has threatened social media companies with government regulation if they don’t act to combat hate and misinformation on their platforms. 

On Monday night, McKenna tweeted out support for government intervention on social media in response to a story about measures the government of Quebec is taking to combat misinformation about Premier François Legault. 

“I think there’s a lot that we can do, but the social media companies themselves need to step up. We don’t have to regulate everything but if you can’t regulate yourselves, governments will,” tweeted McKenna before tagging fellow Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault.

The Trudeau government has ramped up its rhetoric around regulating social media in recent weeks ahead of the speech from the throne which is scheduled for this Wednesday. 

Earlier this month, Guilbeault said his government hopes to force social media companies to become licenced if they wish to continue to share Canadian news content on their websites. 

“We’re going to put some fairness into the Canadian regulatory system, because right now there is no fairness. We have Canadian companies that have regulatory obligations and we have international web giants that have none. And that’s unsustainable,” Guilbeault said.

Guilbeault also praised a similar law floated by the Australian government, which would force platforms like Facebook and Google to pay royalties for news sourced in the country. 

“We remain committed towards ensuring a comprehensive, more equitable digital regulatory framework here in Canada. That includes making sure that Canadian news organizations continue to inform and empower our communities,” tweeted Guilbeault.

“As for Facebook’s action, the Canadian government stands with our Australian partners and denounces any form of threats.”

In February, Guilbeault suggested that the Liberals would also require media companies to be licenced with the government. However, he later backtracked on the comments after public outrage. 

“If you’re a distributor of content in Canada and obviously if you’re a very small media organization the requirement probably wouldn’t be the same if you’re Facebook, or Google. There would have to be some proportionality embedded into this,” Guilbeault said.

“We would ask that they have a licence, yes.”

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