A recent notice from the House of Commons Canadian Heritage committee proposed a study on policing and monitoring online “hate speech.”
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, the notice seeks to “undertake a study of the creation of and implementation of new measures for online media platforms’ internet service providers requiring them to monitor, address and remove content that constitutes hate speech and remove any other content which is illegal in Canada or prohibited by the Criminal Code.”
The move comes only a month after the Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault said that a Liberal plan to regulate online media would be revealed in the “coming weeks.”
For some time now, the Liberals have been hinting at new regulations on social media companies and legislation to tackle online hate.
Guilbeault has denied that the Liberal government seeks to censor Canadians and license content producers despite past comments made by him to that effect.
During an appearance on CTV’s Question Period, Guilbeault suggested that the Liberals would in fact require licenses to produce online media.
“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.”
Guilbeault later retracted his comments.
As exclusively reported on by True North, Guilbeault accused “some on the right” for his remarks.
“I’m not sure where you saw in the speech from the throne or some of my comments anything regarding censorship or licensing,” said Guilbeault in response to a question from a townhall participant.
“I mean, some on the right have claimed that this is what we were doing. It’s not and I read the speech from the throne a couple of times already and I can’t think of anything in the speech from the throne that this is our intention.”
Mention of “taking action on online hate” also made an appearance in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s latest throne speech and was a key part of Guilbeault’s mandate as minister.
“[The minister will] create new regulations for social media platforms, starting with a requirement that all platforms remove illegal content including hate speech within twenty-four hours or face significant penalties,” claims the mandate letter.
This is not the first time that the Liberals have floated some form of policing of online content.
During a 2019 committee investigation into online hate, the Liberals recommended reviving Section 13 of the Human Rights Act. Section 13 was repealed in 2011after critics claimed that it violated the fundamental right of freedom of expression.
Committee member and Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith has also suggested in the past that offenders who participate in online hate speech or harassment should face fines.
“There needs to be a recourse against the platforms and the individuals responsible for the speech,” said Erskine-Smith before suggesting that “an administrative system that is flexible and efficient” should be set up to punish those who break the proposed rules.