Platforms liable to criminal penalties

Platforms liable to criminal penalties

Social networks, like news sites and other digital platforms, can face criminal charges in Quebec if they do not act against hate speech.

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While the advocates of the far right and conspiratorial influencers, such as the Quebecer Alexis Cossette-Trudel, are banned one by one from Facebook, Twitter and others, voices are being raised for the police to also crack down on the digital platforms that serve as their voice.

“In Quebec, as soon as a digital platform becomes aware of the illegal nature of the comments it hosts, it must act. If it does not do so, it can be held responsible, ”summarizes Pierre Trudel, from the Center for Research in Public Law at the University of Montreal.

The same principle applies in the rest of Canada and in Europe, but not in the United States where the law leaves companies the choice to erase or not the remarks which they themselves define hateful.

Calling for hatred or even sedition, that is to say for a “concerted revolt against the established authority”, is not a trivial gesture, warns Mr Trudel.

Within the meaning of the Criminal Code, these are crimes just as much as pedophilia, says the lawyer, stressing that there is no “hierarchy in the scale of crimes”.

Not taken seriously

However, police are ill-trained and ill-equipped to deal with this problem, says Barbara Perry of the Center on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

After surveying some 297 police officers on the subject, the criminologist found that many were unclear about what a hate crime was.

For her, the problem is not taken seriously. In fact, the police do not give themselves the means to monitor the Internet and crack down.

In 2019, a federal parliamentary committee recommended “that the Government of Canada increase funding for law enforcement agencies […] so that they receive sufficient training and guidance on the importance and necessity of combating hate online ”.

The committee also called for national standards to govern the collection of data on hate crimes that would be recorded in a shared database, in order to help police officers to network.

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