CMHR to host virtual symposium on online hate

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The issue of hate, prejudice and disinformation online, and what to do about it, will be at the center of a virtual symposium hosted by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Tuesday.

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The event will examine how social media platforms are being used, through the global dominance of conversations, to spread hate, evil and disinformation.

“We have seen a lot during the entire pandemic,” said Taylor Owen, one of Canada’s leading experts on digital media ethics and speaker at the event. Winnipeg Sun Monday. “We had this experience where everyone has to know similar things and trust similar institutions, and even behave similarly, (like) take a vaccine. It’s difficult because the antivax content and misinformation about the vaccine and the pandemic itself has been tricked into circulating everywhere. “

Owen said people have the right to be protected from harmful online speech and the right to free speech. The balance between the two, he said, has been upset, adding that the government has a role to play in protecting people from harm online.

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“In Canada, we are in the middle,” he said. “We try to have both. We try to have a free and open society, but we put safeguards on it, especially when it comes to hate speech. The question now is whether our current laws regarding speech are adequate? “

Owen said Bill C-36, an upcoming federal bill that some fear censors online content that violates the federal government’s definition of hate, prejudice and disinformation, could create a system to ensure that speech already deemed illegal is not knowingly disseminated online. Those who break the law could be twisted or fined.

“My point of view is that is not the right way to approach this,” he said. “You have to tackle the incentive structure of the platforms themselves instead of trying to play Whack-a-mole with speech acts.”

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Rob Kittredge, an attorney with the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms, told the Sun Bill C-36 would attempt to redefine the word “violence” to include words. He said the bill could “allow people to be brought to justice if the court finds that the person is likely to communicate hate speech online.”

“Is it really proportionate to create a pre-crime category in Canada? He argued. “It might be reasonable to do that if someone was considering murder. “

Bill C-36 could also reintroduce a section of the Human Rights Code that would allow people to bring private action before the Human Rights Tribunal. Allegations of hatred could be made and money given to successful parties.

“Someone could make a career of taking these cases to the Human Rights Tribunal,” he said. “This section of the Human Rights Code was repealed in 2013 – Parliament struck it down. The most impactful element will be this upcoming online harm bill, which will put in place a whole new legislative regime that would essentially regulate social media.

“It would take moderation of the content and turning it into something government-overseen,” he said.

jsnell@postmedia.com

Twitter @JamesWestgateSn

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