Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault says most Canadians are okay with the federal government moderating their content on the internet claiming only a “minority” are opposed to regulation.

According to Blacklock’s Reporter, Guilbeault made the comments during a House of Commons ethics committee meeting on the Liberal government’s promised legislation meant to tackle online harms like “hateful” content and disinformation.

“There are some people out there, a minority clearly, who would advocate that we shouldn’t intervene, there should be no laws whatsoever regarding the internet, and anyways what happens on the internet stays on the internet. Well, it’s clearly not the case,” said Guilbeault.

When pressed by fellow committee members, Guilbeault noted that the government already has the power to tackle illegal online content like hate speech and incitement of violence but claimed that the purpose of the proposed bill is to moderate ordinary content.  

“The bill we’re talking about now deals with the moderation of content,” Guilbeault told his fellow committee members.

“It’s going to be about an entire new ecosystem to help us deal with these harms online in a way we can’t right now.”

Prior to the 2019 election, the Liberal-dominated House of Commons justice committee held hearings on online hate legislation, culminating in a report introducing a bill expanding the government’s ability to address online hate speech.

True North’s Lindsay Shepherd was among those who testified before the committee, though the majority of witnesses called by the committee were pushing for speech restrictions.

The proposed online hate speech bill is separate from Bill C-10, the internet regulation bill currently being pushed through the House of Commons by the Liberals.

While C-10 will deal with expanding the regulatory powers of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to apply to digital content, critics have raised the alarm about the legislation’s threat to free speech. 

During a virtual panel in April, Guilbeault hinted that the incoming legislation meant to tackle online hate speech could go even further and include a “kill-switch” which would allow regulators to force social media companies to remove content they don’t approve of. 

Although the proposed bill has yet to be tabled, Guilbeault has suggested that the law will rely on prior court cases to provide a definition of what constitutes “hate.” Among the precedents cited by Guilbeault was the Supreme Court of Canada’s Whatcott decision, which declared that even truthful statements could be considered hate speech.

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