Feds Debut Online Safety Law to Regulate Internet Giants

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The federal government on Monday put forward the Online Harms Act, which aims to regulate internet companies and stopping harmful online content.

This legislation mandates that digital platforms actively curb exposure to content that promotes bullying, sexual victimization of children, extremism, violence, or hatred.

Targeting big tech companies like TikTok, X, Meta, and YouTube, the law applies to social media, live streaming, and adult content platforms meeting a specific user threshold, details of which will be defined in upcoming regulations. A new Digital Safety Commission will oversee enforcement, addressing complaints and mandating the removal of inappropriate content. Additionally, an independent digital safety ombudsperson will be established to support and represent the interests of users.

“For too long, web giants have failed to keep kids safe online. Far too often, this has had devastating consequences,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “To hold web giants accountable for the harmful content they host, and to make online spaces safer, we’ve introduced the Online Harms Act.”

This move places Canada in line with other regions like the UK, EU, and Australia, which have already introduced similar online safety measures. Trudeau first promised during the 2021 federal election during COVID to hold internet giants accountable for the content they host.

The legislation proposes a new hate crime offense, separate from other crimes, with penalties as severe as life in prison. It also allows individuals to report online hate speech to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, potentially leading to content removal orders and compensation for victims, noted Bloomberg.

According to the Act, online companies found guilty of offences could possibly be required to pay for the cost of the Commission, Ombudsperson and Office.

The Online Harms Act adds to some other controversial internet policies from the Trudeau government, including the Online Streaming Act and the Online News Act, which have sparked debates over freedom of expression and the balance between user safety and rights. Critics have expressed concerns over the impact on free speech due to all of these regulations.

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