Independent Press Gallery of Canada Posts Response to Online Harms Proposal

The Independent Press Gallery of Canada has released their response to the Canadian online harms proposal.

The online harms proposal continues to attract critics. This time, the Independent Press Gallery of Canada is joining the growing chorus of people who are opposed to it. They say that the proposal will be significantly harmful to Canadians charter rights. From their site:

“We support and advocate for a media that remains separate from the government, and have a strong commitment to Charter values, particularly freedom of expression, association, and free press,” Malcolm said.

“The IPG is vital to the fabric of Canada and essential to an independent media. The government regulation, as proposed, is detrimental to these democratic values.”

The IPG raised the following key concerns on the federal government’s proposal to regulate hateful content online:

  • The proposal has a problematic foundation in Bill C-36
  • It undemocratically infringes on Charter rights
  • Creates unreasonable obligations for online communications service providers
  • Doesn’t reflect Supreme Court of Canada decisions on privacy or Charter rights
  • Gives too much authority to online communications service providers to determine what is harmful content
  • Creates opportunities for bias and discrimination due to the arbitrary and unworkable nature of the proposal

“The IPG opposes the proposal and expresses a serious concern to the harmful effects on freedom of expression and principles of law that will ensue if the government moves forward with the proposal. We expect that the government will take our criticisms into account and will cease its pursuit of the proposal in its current form,” Malcolm said.

A PDF of their submission can also be found in their posting or here (PDF).

The online harms proposal dates back to early August, before the election was called. It was laid out in a “consultation” process with a single e-mail address for Canadians to send in their concerns. It’s widely considered a consultation in name only given that the consultation was effectively held during an election, that the paper offers no alternatives to their proposed approach, and by the fact that the Liberal party has been acting like a brick wall when it comes to public feedback on these issues. So, little surprise that many conclude that the consultation is nothing more than a box to tick for the government, rather than a serious attempt to gain public feedback.

In a show of defiance, I published my response to the online harms proposal. It’s less about offering a serious rebuttal to the proposal and more to show that there is resistance to the governments efforts. More recently, the Internet Society Canada Chapter published their response to the online harms proposal, railing both against what is being proposed and the “consultation” process. It also signalled that I wasn’t alone in my response and criticism either.

Of course, this proposal is being followed closely by the international community. Many are gravely concerned that Canada has taken such a sharp turn away from being supportive of free speech and innovation. Another fear is that this terrible proposal would also spark inspiration from other countries to crack down on the Internet as well. Some of those voices include the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Cory Doctorow.

This international condemnation was generally ignored by the Liberals who vowed in their own election platform to push the online harms proposal within 100 days of taking office. It’s not a surprise given that certain members of the party flat out ignored criticisms of Bill C-10 and even dismissed criticisms as “misinformation”. So, many observers have every reason to believe that critics will get the same treatment during this next session of government as well.

Still, this development is definitely warmly welcomed by those who want to defend innovation and freedom of expression online. The more people that speak out, the harder it is to deny that Canadian’s and international experts disagree with the Liberal party’s approach.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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