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Interesting Opinion piece on the CBC.  

 

 

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Opinion

Canadian government's proposed online harms legislation threatens our human rights

Social Sharing

 

No other liberal democracy in the world has been willing to accept these restrictions, writes Ilan Kogan

 
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Ilan Kogan · for CBC Opinion · Posted: Oct 05, 2021 5:00 AM ET | Last Updated: 6 hours ago
 
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a moment of silence in the House of Commons in recognition of four people killed in a truck attack in London, Ont. In the wake of the incident, which police say was a targeted attack on a Muslim family, Ottawa promised better regulation for online hate speech, but the new rules create more problems than they solve, writes Ilan Kogan. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

This column is an opinion from Ilan Kogan, a Canadian JD/MBA student at Yale Law School and Harvard Business School. For more information about CBC's Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

The Canadian government is considering new rules to regulate how social media platforms moderate potentially harmful user-generated content. Already, the proposed legislation has been criticized by internet scholars — across the political spectrum — as some of the worst in the world.

 

Oddly, the proposed legislation reads like a list of the most widely condemned policy ideas globally. Elsewhere, these ideas have been vigorously protested by human rights organizations and struck down as unconstitutional. No doubt, the federal government's proposed legislation presents a serious threat to human rights in Canada.

The government's intentions are noble. The purpose of the legislation is to reduce five types of harmful content online: child sexual exploitation content, terrorist content, content that incites violence, hate speech, and non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

Even though this content is already largely illegal, further reducing its proliferation is a worthy goal. Governments around the world, and particularly in Europe, have introduced legislation to combat these harms. The problem is not the government's intention. The problem is the government's solution.

Serious privacy issues

The legislation is simple. First, online platforms would be required to proactively monitor all user speech and evaluate its potential for harm. Online communication service providers would need to take "all reasonable measures," including the use of automated systems, to identify harmful content and restrict its visibility. 

Second, any individual would be able to flag content as harmful. The social media platform would then have 24 hours from initial flagging to evaluate whether the content was in fact harmful. Failure to remove harmful content within this period would trigger a stiff penalty: up to three per cent of the service provider's gross global revenue or $10 million, whichever is higher. For Facebook, that would be a penalty of $2.6 billion per post.

Proactive monitoring of user speech presents serious privacy issues. Without restrictions on proactive monitoring, national governments would be able to significantly increase their surveillance powers. 

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians from unreasonable searches. But under the proposed legislation, a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity would not be necessary for a service provider, acting on the government's behalf, to conduct a search. All content posted online would be searched. Potentially harmful content would be stored by the service provider and transmitted — in secret — to the government for criminal prosecution.

 
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Under the proposed legislation, many innocent Canadians will be referred for criminal prosecution, writes Ilan Kogan. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Canadians who have nothing to hide still have something to fear. Social media platforms process billions of pieces of content every day. Proactive monitoring is only possible with an automated system. Yet automated systems are notoriously inaccurate. Even Facebook's manual content moderation accuracy has been reported to be below 90 per cent.

Social media companies are not like newspapers; accurately reviewing every piece of content is operationally impossible. The outcome is uncomfortable: Many innocent Canadians will be referred for criminal prosecution under the proposed legislation.

But it gets worse. If an online communication service provider determined that your content was not harmful within the tight 24-hour review period, and the government later decided otherwise, the provider would lose up to three per cent of their gross global revenue. Accordingly, any rational platform would censor far more content than the strictly illegal. Human rights scholars call this troubling phenomenon "collateral censorship."

Identifying illegal content is difficult, and therefore the risk of collateral censorship is high. Hate speech restrictions may best illustrate the problem. The proposal expects platforms to apply the Supreme Court of Canada's hate speech jurisprudence. Identifying hate speech is difficult for courts, let alone algorithms or low-paid content moderators who must make decisions in mere seconds. Although speech that merely offends is not hate speech, platforms are likely to remove anything that has even the slightest potential to upset. Ironically, the very minority groups the legislation seeks to protect are some of the most likely to be harmed

We must demand better

So, what to do about online harms? One step in the right direction is to recognize that not all harmful content is the same. For instance, it is far easier to identify child pornography than hate speech. Accordingly, the timelines for removing the former should be shorter than for the latter. 

And although revenge pornography might be appropriate to remove solely upon a victim's request, offensive speech might need input from the poster and an independent agency or court before removal is required by law. Other jurisdictions draw distinctions. Canada should too.

Regulating online harms is a serious issue that the Canadian government, like all others, must tackle to protect its citizens. Child pornography, terrorist content, incitement, hate speech, and revenge pornography have no place in Canada. More can be done to limit their prevalence online. 

But the proposed legislation creates far more problems than it solves. It reads as a collection of the worst policy ideas introduced around the world in the past decade. No other liberal democracy has been willing to accept these restrictions. 

The threats to privacy and freedom of expression are obvious. Canadians must demand better.


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I hope the debate in the house over this just doesn't turn into my camp vs your camp and we can actually get into some real solutions to reduce online hate and abuse.

 

Social media in particular is a big problem, doing nothing isn't the answer. People get very passionate about the idea that the internet is a free wild west where nothing should be regulated but thats not working either.

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30 minutes ago, KoreanHockeyFan said:

This doesn't get at the root of the problem.

 

We need to improve education to give kids the tools to critically think (i.e. what to look out for) and better understand the pros and cons of social media. 

 

 

how do we achieve that thought when its so clear many people just cant/won't do that?

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45 minutes ago, bishopshodan said:

If a person can post something to the general public, does that make them a broadcaster?

 

If so, should there not be some kind of regulations like the CRTC?

what if there's more to it than that? what if people are actually addicted to hateful content?

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54 minutes ago, KoreanHockeyFan said:

This doesn't get at the root of the problem.

 

We need to improve education to give kids the tools to critically think (i.e. what to look out for) and better understand the pros and cons of social media. 

We need to restructure how our education is done in general to actually reflect life after school but no changes in that regard seems to ever get made. As a result, I have little faith what you are suggesting would get done nor would it be effective enough.

 

I see the conflicting problems as the following:

 

1) An individual is given a lot of power through social media which can easily be abused

2) The regulation of free speech on social media is a slippery slope

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42 minutes ago, JM_ said:

I hope the debate in the house over this just doesn't turn into my camp vs your camp and we can actually get into some real solutions to reduce online hate and abuse.

 

Social media in particular is a big problem, doing nothing isn't the answer. People get very passionate about the idea that the internet is a free wild west where nothing should be regulated but thats not working either.

 

 

I agree there needs to be something done on hate or crime, but these are drafted by lawyers to create work and gain for them

Serious crimes should not need a broad scope of laws to be dealt with

 

Crime has never stopped because of laws

We need to educate and teach to accept peoples differences instead of hate (it should start on this forum)

 

Maybe everyone gets a internet licence and if you go over the line you are given a suspension

A drivers licence is a privilege and so should the internet be

It is not "Human Rights"  to hurt others and have your warped views gain from it

 

 

Just like the middle class income has eroded, so has the middle class ethics

It seems there are more politically correct or rednecks now

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When you have fb being outed prioritizing growth over no extreme content and out right lies, we have a problem that can not be self regulated by the industry. 

 

Really for me the happy medium is the company will be on the hook for any extreme events that originated or perpetuated on their platforms. That way at least the government is not getting our data and the industry have monetary incentive to self regulate content. 

 

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2 hours ago, The Lock said:

We need to restructure how our education is done in general to actually reflect life after school but no changes in that regard seems to ever get made. As a result, I have little faith what you are suggesting would get done nor would it be effective enough.

 

I see the conflicting problems as the following:

 

1) An individual is given a lot of power through social media which can easily be abused

2) The regulation of free speech on social media is a slippery slope

It's not easy, but that's the only true solution I see to this problem. 

 

My "useless" liberal arts degree actually taught me a lot about how to think critically. I think some form of that needs to be tailored and implemented for elementary/high school kids.

 

I'm not sure what current high school curriculums are like now, but even something as simple as teaching high school kids basic statistics so that they learn how to critically read stat lines on news media headlines would be helpful as well. Showing clips of John Oliver and Ben Shapiro to show how different opinions exist and are driven by different political agendas, etc. I think there's lots of things that could be done. 

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1 hour ago, KoreanHockeyFan said:

It's not easy, but that's the only true solution I see to this problem. 

 

My "useless" liberal arts degree actually taught me a lot about how to think critically. I think some form of that needs to be tailored and implemented for elementary/high school kids.

 

I'm not sure what current high school curriculums are like now, but even something as simple as teaching high school kids basic statistics so that they learn how to critically read stat lines on news media headlines would be helpful as well. Showing clips of John Oliver and Ben Shapiro to show how different opinions exist and are driven by different political agendas, etc. I think there's lots of things that could be done. 

High school math needs to be changed completely.  Basic finance should be a requirement instead of all the trig.  Stats was taught in grade 12, but should probably be moved a year earlier so it's not optional.

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Just now, King Heffy said:

High school math needs to be changed completely.  Basic finance should be a requirement instead of all the trig.  Stats was taught in grade 12, but should probably be moved a year earlier so it's not optional.

I can agree with this. There are not a lot of occupations out there that need trig; whereas everyone can use finance and statistics. Another one I would like to see are basic coding skills being mandatory.

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1 hour ago, KoreanHockeyFan said:

It's not easy, but that's the only true solution I see to this problem. 

 

My "useless" liberal arts degree actually taught me a lot about how to think critically. I think some form of that needs to be tailored and implemented for elementary/high school kids.

 

I'm not sure what current high school curriculums are like now, but even something as simple as teaching high school kids basic statistics so that they learn how to critically read stat lines on news media headlines would be helpful as well. Showing clips of John Oliver and Ben Shapiro to show how different opinions exist and are driven by different political agendas, etc. I think there's lots of things that could be done. 

I guess I just don't know if I see it as a full solution mostly due to the fact that a lot of students don't take school seriously enough. It's also a very VERY long-term solution that isn't going to fix anything in the short term.

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5 hours ago, JM_ said:

what if there's more to it than that? what if people are actually addicted to hateful content?

I'm proposing that individuals that post anything publicly have to do so under guidelines set by a regulating body like the CRTC. Such as a broadcaster would. 

So, we would punish the peddlers, not the addicts.

 

I think getting around this is establishing 'private' platforms/groups, so that would have to be looked it too also.

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37 minutes ago, Nucksfollower1983 said:

according to that whistleblower facebook thinks you are.

I think a lot of folks really are addicted to the dopamine hit from hateful activities online. Pretty sad way to make money.

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6 hours ago, ba;;isticsports said:

 

 

I agree there needs to be something done on hate or crime, but these are drafted by lawyers to create work and gain for them

Serious crimes should not need a broad scope of laws to be dealt with

 

Crime has never stopped because of laws

We need to educate and teach to accept peoples differences instead of hate (it should start on this forum)

 

Maybe everyone gets a internet licence and if you go over the line you are given a suspension

A drivers licence is a privilege and so should the internet be

It is not "Human Rights"  to hurt others and have your warped views gain from it

 

 

Just like the middle class income has eroded, so has the middle class ethics

It seems there are more politically correct or rednecks now

an online license of some sort is an interesting idea. Some platforms could require you to have one, and also make sure its really you. That would go a long way to curbing the really crappy stuff.

 

 

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