NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says the government must step in because social media companies aren’t doing a good enough job at keeping “hate speech” off their platforms.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday night after the French leaders’ debate in Gatineau, Que., Singh said existing hate speech laws are not sufficiently preventing radicalization, though he didn’t explain at what point he thinks protected speech becomes “hate speech.”
“The Liberal government (has) acknowledged that there is a problem, but they haven’t acted in six years,” Singh said. “They haven’t done anything to take on hate speech online, and without any action from the government, we’re leaving it in the hands of the web giants or the social media giants, and they are not equipped, nor have they shown, really, the willingness, to take on online hate. They allow it to spread, and I believe it is the government’s responsibility.”
Singh said a government response must involve the power to “remove immediately misinformation that incites hatred and act quickly to stop the spread of those type of messages online.”
Such a move would likely involve fining social media companies if they fail to purge content prohibited by the government within 24 hours, as the Liberals have proposed.
Singh added that Trudeau’s purported inaction on regulating online speech has resulted in “people being radicalized.”
He did not provide any examples, but said “some of the worst massacres in Canada recently were the result of people who were radicalized by online hate.”
On the day of the last House of Commons sitting before the election, the Liberals tabled Bill C-36, which would reinstate a previously repealed section of the Canadian Human Rights Act allowing for prosecution of online “hate speech.”
The section was scrapped by the previous Conservative government amid concerns about its effect on free speech after the Canadian Human Rights Commission used it to target bloggers and authors.
Singh was asked how much consideration he would give to protecting freedom of expression in any attempt to regulate online speech, but he did not address this in his response.
The Criminal Code already prohibits hate speech in Canada, with a high threshold for prosecution. Efforts to combat hate speech through human rights laws lower this threshold considerably, giving human rights tribunals wide latitude to pursue cases even in the absence of a complaint.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms derided Bill C-36 as “frighteningly despotic and totalitarian.” The People’s Party of Canada said it would be used as a tool to criminalize everything but “far-left woke speech,” eventually.
While the Conservatives were initially silent on C-36 when it was introduced, the party’s campaign platform closed the door to using human rights laws to address online speech.