Federal Minister Steven Guilbeault is working on a bill to regulate hate speech online
(Ottawa) Because “people are tired”, because “it is excessively problematic if we leave it in the hands of companies”, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, wants “to ring the end of recess for giants of the web ”by tabling his bill to ban hateful, violent and child pornography online.
The mission is perilous. At a time when, south of the border, some Republicans are crying out for censorship and the partiality of the “Big Tech” (the GAFAMs: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft), the Trudeau government is preparing to their impose a course of action. Already, the one who was chosen to bring them to heel is being heavily insulted – on social networks, of course.
“Not enough for me to file a complaint, no threats, but hey, they call me all names,” said Steven Guilbeault during an interview with Press which took place a few days ago. “It’s okay, I’m a minister, I knew when I decided to introduce myself that it came with it, but people are fed up with it. And I think we are ringing the end of recess. ”
Because if there is one lesson he says he learned from his years of activism, it is that private companies do not discipline themselves on their own. “As a green man, I have never believed in self-regulation. In the environment, there is never anyone who has been able to give me a conclusive or convincing demonstration that it works. I no longer believe in this area, ”he explains.
Without going into the details of the provisions of the legislative measure, Steven Guilbeault says that it provides, among other things, for the creation of a position of regulator who would be responsible for monitoring content on websites and web platforms – hate speech, publication of non-consensual images, incitement to violence, incitement to terrorism and child pornography are said to be in his sights.
“The regulator will have the power to implement the law and the regulations which will result from it, to carry out audits, possibly to impose fines”, he lists. And not just small fines, he warns.
PHOTO ADRIAN WYLD, ARCHIVES THE CANADIAN PRESS
Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage
We are talking [d’amendes] millions, even tens of millions of dollars. We are talking about companies with huge turnover; it has to have a material impact.
Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage
With regard to users who see content removed or a canceled account and who would like to challenge the verdict of a social network, Ottawa is considering setting up an appeal mechanism. “A lot of people were probably happy that Donald Trump [se fasse bannir de Twitter et Facebook], but tomorrow morning, it could be you or me, and we would not know why… it does not work ”, pleads the Minister.
The definition of hate speech is said to be taken from the Whatcott decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.
The assault on the Capitol as an argument
Steven Guilbeault has been working on this bill for several months. Before, therefore, the murderous assault on the Capitol that took place last January – an event which somehow comforted the minister in his action. “What’s sad and tragic is that it didn’t surprise me,” he says. It was like the culmination of something we had seen coming for a long time. We didn’t start working on it on January 6, of course, but that only strengthens our conviction that it must be done. ”
“In the physical world, you cannot do all kinds of attacks on a person’s integrity, hold hate speech […] without risking being the object of criminal prosecution, then why should we have a double regime? », Insists the minister, sorry that the scourge affects women and racialized communities even more.
In addition, in the light of a survey on hate speech and racism online published last week, Steven Guilbeault feels that social acceptability is there. In this poll carried out on behalf of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, 60% of participants believe that the federal government should do more to prevent the spread of hate speech.
However, a favorable poll does not result in the adoption of a bill. And on the political level, a left-right divide is emerging.
Members of the Conservative Party of Canada and Conservative columnists have already raised red flags, and the survey conducted by the firm Abacus shows that 50% of right-wing participants are more worried about the impact that government action could have on their freedom of movement. expression that the impact on hate speech online, against 19% on the left and 30% in the center.
Minister Guilbeault intends to table his legislation this winter. “I want to go fast because I may not have a lot of time,” he says, before going with a nuance. “At the same time, we must not go too fast, it is a delicate issue, there is the question of freedom of expression; we certainly do not want to interfere with freedom of expression. ”
The “untenable” status quo, says Facebook
In parliamentary committee, last Friday, the director of public policy of Facebook Canada, Kevin Chan, assured that he viewed government intervention in a positive light. “We agree with regulations that would set basic standards for the kind of content that would be banned online and that would force social media companies to set up systems to enforce these standards,” he said. declared to elected officials. The status quo leaving it to companies to decide what is and is not acceptable speech online is untenable in the long run, and lacks transparency and accountability. “