The recent consultation process undertaken by the Trudeau Liberal government into crafting laws to do away with what they call online harms is “an absolute embarrassment to the government”, according to an expert in the field.
While few people would disagree with the notion that things like online hate speech and misinformation are bad, the idea of a partisan government defining what these terms mean and then using that to regulate speech is a big problem.
University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist has been a principled critic of the federal government’s various attempts to regulate and censor the Internet.
This past week, Geist released access-to-information documents he unearthed that unveils the responses the government received from individuals, businesses and organizations to its plans.
What the documents reveal is that the opposition to Liberal plans is even wider than first thought. But why didn’t the government’s report on their consultations reveal this aspect?
As Geist writes in a blog post, “the government’s determination to keep the consultations submissions secret until compelled to disclose them by law eviscerates its claims to support open, transparent government.”
This alone shows the Liberals aren’t well-suited to the task of regulating online content.
Geist’s findings reveal other interesting things, such as how TikTok reported that “in the first quarter of 2021, content that violated its community guidelines accounted for less than 1% of all video and that 91.3% of the videos it removed were identified and removed even before a user reported them.”
This suggests that social media companies are doing a good job of removing inappropriate content as is. Why does the Trudeau cabinet need to wade into the matter and take control?
Geist also unearthed Twitter’s damning response to the government: “The proposal by the government of Canada to allow the Digital Safety Commissioner to block websites is drastic. People around the world have been blocked from accessing Twitter and other services in a similar manner as the one proposed by Canada by multiple authoritarian governments (China, North Korea, and Iran for example) under the false guise of ‘online safety’ impeding peoples’ rights to access information online.”
Wow. If your online regulation is being compared to that of dictatorships, that’s a clear sign you need to back down.