Proposed online safety laws come in hot

Today in news that we’re positive politicians will be super chill about, the federal justice minister unveiled the first draft of a long-awaited Online Harms Act.

Driving the news: The proposed laws are largely focused on protecting internet users, especially children, from content that is deemed harmful. It would cover content posted to social media platforms, live streaming services, and some user-uploaded adult content. 

  • If passed, it would create a new digital safety commission tasked with enforcing the new rules and an ombudsperson that will support and advocate for users online.  

  • The bill also amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to specify that posting hate speech online is discrimination, a step toward creating a process for complaints.

Why it matters: In the online world, hate speech of all types is on the rise, AI has flooded the web with deepfake porn videos, and ~75% of incidents involving child abuse material go unsolved. It’s no wonder countries from the U.K. to Sri Lanka are passing new regulations.

  • The conversation picked up in Canada over three years ago when the feds promised to deliver laws tackling online harm within 100 days of forming a government in 2021. 

Bottom line: Discussions about online safety have turned into a political battle over freedom of expression on the internet. Conservative politicians have called the bill an attack on such freedoms, while their Liberal counterparts say it’s a necessary step to keep kids safe online.