If the Trudeau Liberals are re-elected in the upcoming election, major online platforms will be subject to regulation by a new government commission.
During a technical briefing on Thursday morning, government officials proposed the creation of a digital safety commission that will have the power to regulate “harmful online content.”
The government’s proposal will create a new legal category that specifically targets Online Communication Service Providers (OCSPs) like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. These OCSPs will be under the authority of the digital safety commission.
The government also lists the pornographic website Pornhub as an OCSP they plan to target.
The five categories of “harmful online content” covered under the proposed new powers will draw on offences defined under the Criminal Code: hate speech, child sexual exploitation content, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, incitement to violence, and terrorist content.
Under the new rules, content that is flagged illegal by users will need to be removed by the online platform within 24 hours.
OCSPs will face hefty fines if they fail to remove the content. The government is threatening financial penalties of as much as $10 million or 3% of a platform’s gross global revenue — whichever is higher.
In cases of non-compliance, the new commission could seek a fine from a company of as much as $25 million or 5% of the gross global revenue, whichever is higher. The commission also has the power to have telecommunications companies block access to platforms that are non-compliant.
The government said it also plans to consult broadly with Canadians before putting the framework into legislation in the fall.
“We need consistent and transparent rules for how online platforms address hate, incitement of violence and harmful online content,” Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a news release.
“This engagement is a crucial step in proposing solutions for a safer and more inclusive online environment where everyone can be heard.”
On the definition of hate speech, the government says it will be referring to its “online hate speech” bill, Bill C-36, which has not yet been passed.
Bill C-36 seeks to expand powers to prosecute individuals involved in “hate propaganda” or so-called “online hate” by amending the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The bill will revive section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which was struck down by the Harper government in 2014 for infringing on the free speech rights of Canadians. The bill would give the Canadian Human Rights Commission the power to compel citizens to cease online communication or pay a monetary fine.