DANGER INTERNETS AHEAD by Les Orchard (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/cSsSX
It should not come as a surprise, but those hoping that the government’s much-anticipated cabinet overhaul might signal a potential course-correction on its digital policy mess will be sorely disappointed. If anything, yesterday’s changes at Canadian Heritage and Justice suggest an acceleration of plans that will include continuing to head toward the Bill C-18 cliff of blocked news links as well as introducing controversial online harms legislation and perhaps even copyright reform. Pascale St-Onge, the new Heritage Minister, was a lobbyist in the culture sector before her election to the House of Commons and is likely to welcome the big tech battle, while removing David Lametti as Justice Minister and replacing him with Arif Virani means online harms loses an important voice for freedom of expression in favour of someone who has expressed impatience with delays in new regulations.
The Canadian Heritage Online Harms Credibility Gap, Part Two: Filtering Out Critics From Participating in Anti-Hate Consultation Survey
The government’s online harms bill, led by Canadian Heritage, is likely to be introduced in the coming weeks. My series on why the department faces a significant credibility gap on the issue opened with a look at its misleading and secretive approach to the 2021 online harms consultation, including its decision to only disclose public submissions when compelled to do so by law and releasing a misleading “What We Heard” report that omitted crucial information. Today’s post focuses on another Canadian Heritage consultation which occurred months later on proposed anti-hate plans. As the National Post reported earlier this year, after the consultation launched, officials became alarmed when responses criticizing the plan and questioning government priorities began to emerge. The solution? The department remarkably decided to filter out the critics from participating in the consultation by adding a new question that short-circuited it for anyone who responded that they did not think anti-hate measures should be a top government priority.
The Canadian Heritage Credibility Gap on Online Harms, Part One: Public Report Did Not Disclose 90% Opposition to Its 2021 Proposal
The government’s online harms bill – likely rebranded as an online safety bill – is expected to be tabled by Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez in the coming weeks. The bill, which reports suggest will even include age verification requirements that raise significant privacy and expression concerns, is expected to emerge as the most controversial of the government’s three-part Internet regulation plan that also includes Bill C-11 and Bill C-18. Given the fierce debate and opposition to those two bills, it may be hard to believe that online harms or safety will be even more contentious. Yet that is likely both because the bill will have enormous implications for freedom of expression and because Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and his department face a significant credibility gap on the file. To be absolutely clear, there is a need for legislation that addresses online harms and ensures that Internet platforms operate in a transparent, responsible manner with the prospect of liability for failure to do so. However, Canadian Heritage has repeatedly fumbled the issue with conduct that raises serious concerns about whether it is fit to lead.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 135: Co-Chair Emily Laidlaw on the Work of the Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Online Safety
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez created an Expert Advisory Group on Online Safety earlier this year to help craft a potential legislative and policy response to online safety and harms issues. The panel recently concluded its work and though the media focused on a failure to achieve absolute consensus from a group that by design had different views, the reality is that common ground was found on several key issues. Emily Laidlaw, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity Law at the University of Calgary, served as co-chair of the expert group. She joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about how the panel functioned, where it found consensus, areas of disagreement, and what could come next for one of the thorniest Internet policy issues.