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fedi-tiktok by David Lohner CC0 1.0 https://flic.kr/p/2pCxJA9

Better Laws, Not Bans: Why a TikTok Ban is a Bad Idea

New legislation making its way through the U.S. Congress has placed a TikTok ban back on the public agenda. The app is already prohibited on government devices in Canada, the government has quietly conducted a national security review, and there are new calls to ban it altogether from the Canadian market. While it might be tempting for some politicians to jump on the bandwagon, a ban would be a mistake. There are legitimate concerns with social media companies, but there simply hasn’t been convincing evidence that TikTok currently raises a national security threat nor that it poses a greater risk than any other social media service. The furor really seems to be a case of economic nationalism – a desire to deny a popular Chinese service access to the U.S. market – rather than a genuine case that TikTok poses a unique privacy and security threat. Taken at face value, however, the case against TikTok comes down to a simple concern: its owner, ByteDance, is a Chinese company that could theoretically be required to disclose user information to the Chinese government or compelled to act on its behalf. The proposed U.S. law therefore would require that TikTok be sold within six months or face a ban.

While the concerns associated with TikTok given its Chinese connection and popularity with younger demographics are well known, the privacy and security case against it is very weak.

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March 15, 2024 13 comments News
Arif Virani, MP for Parkdale-High Park by Nicole Contois https://flic.kr/p/ThAyBg CC0 1.0

Government Gaslighting Again?: Unpacking the Uncomfortable Reality of the Online Harms Act

The Online Harms Act was only introduced two weeks ago, but already it appears that the government is ready to run back the same playbook of gaslighting and denials that plagued Bills C-11 and C-18. Those bills, which addressed Internet streaming and news, faced widespread criticism over potential regulation of user content and the prospect of blocked news links on major Internet platforms. Rather than engage in a policy process that took the criticism seriously, the government ignored digital creators (including disrespecting indigenous creators) and dismissed the risks of Bill C-18 as a bluff. The results of that strategy are well-known: Bill C-11 required a policy direction fix and is mired in a years-long regulatory process at the CRTC and news links have been blocked for months on Meta as the list of Canadian media bankruptcies and closures mount.

Bill C-63, the Online Harms Act, offered the chance for a fresh start given that the government seemed to accept the sharp criticism of its first proposal, engaging in a more open consultative process in response. As I noted when the bill was first tabled, the core of the legislation addressing the responsibility of Internet platforms was indeed much improved. Yet it was immediately obvious there were red flags, particularly with respect to the Digital Safety Commission charged with enforcing the law and with the inclusion of Criminal Code and Human Rights Act provisions with overbroad penalties and the potential to weaponize speech complaints. The hope – based on the more collaborative approach used to develop the law – was that there would be a “genuine welcoming of constructive criticism rather than the discouraging, hostile processes of recent years.” Two weeks in that hope is rapidly disappearing.

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March 13, 2024 21 comments News
Internet Safety by Alan Levine https://flic.kr/p/aupWJP (CC BY 2.0)

The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 195: Vivek Krishnamurthy on What You Need to Know About the Online Harms Act

The Online Harms Act is the culmination of years of public debate over whether – or how – the government should establish a regulatory framework for Internet platforms in dealing with online harms. Bill C-63 is already attracting considerable controversy, particularly over proposed changes to the Criminal Code and the Human Rights Act. To help unpack the bill, Vivek Krishnamurthy, an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Law School, joins this week’s Law Bytes podcast. Vivek is a former colleague and Director of the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic and he served as a Commissioner on the Canadian Commission on Democratic Expression and was a member of the government’s Expert Panel on Online Harms.

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March 11, 2024 9 comments Podcasts
Taking Action Against Antisemitic Hate: When Content Moderation, Self-Regulation, and Legislation Fail

Taking Action Against Antisemitic Hate: When Content Moderation, Self-Regulation, and Legislation Fail

The explosive growth of antisemitism in Canada since October 7th is well documented with shooting at schools, the need for a regular police presence at synagogues and community centres, arrests on terrorism offences, and protests targeting Jewish owned businesses and communities. So in that context, some antisemitic graffiti at a bus stop in Toronto over the weekend might have been just one more incident to add to the list that now runs into the hundreds. Yet I found the image of “No Service For Jew Bastards” particularly chilling, evoking memories of the holocaust and of similar hateful messages that have frequently targeted minority communities over the years. I proceeded to post a tweet and a LinkedIn post with the photo and a caption:

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March 5, 2024 10 comments News
Law_journals_in_the_Great_Library by Neal Jennings, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 194: CCH Turns 20 – Scott Jolliffe Goes Behind the Scenes of the Landmark Copyright Case That Ushered in Users’ Rights

Twenty years ago today the Supreme Court of Canada released CCH Canadian v. Law Society of Upper Canada, a decision that stands as perhaps the most consequential in Canadian copyright law history as it would firmly establish fair dealing as a users right and serve as the foundation for copyright law in Canada for decades to come. Leading off the hearing several months earlier for the Law Society was Scott Joliffe, an IP litigator with the law firm Gowlings. Joliffe was charged with arguing the fair dealing aspects of the case, but it was only at last moment that users right entered the picture. To mark its 20th anniversary, Joliffe joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about the CCH case, his strategy and insights from the hearing, and his thoughts on its impact many years later.

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March 4, 2024 6 comments Podcasts