Canada Asks Citizens, Stakeholders for Input on New Online Content Regulation

OTTAWA — The Canadian government is inviting “stakeholders and Canadians” to submit comments regarding a current proposal to regulate online content, which was prompted by the recent Parliamentary hearings targeting Pornhub and parent company MindGeek.

The call for comments — which includes an invitation to both international “stakeholders” (including religiously motivated anti-porn activist organizations like NCOSE and Exodus Cry) and all Canadian citizens — starts with a statement that although “social media platforms and other online communications services play a vital and important role in Canada’s society and economy,” they can also “be abused and used to incite hate, promote violence and extremism or for other illegal activity.”

“The Government of Canada is committed to taking meaningful action to combat hate speech and other kinds of harmful content online, including child sexual exploitation content, terrorist content, content that incites violence, and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images,” the call for comments continues.

“The Government is asking for written submissions from Canadians on its proposed approach to make social media platforms and other online communications services more accountable and more transparent when it comes to combating harmful content online.”

The current proposal for “a new legislative and regulatory framework” includes creating new government-imposed content moderation rules for “how social media platforms and other online services must address harmful content,” managed by a new politically-appointed bureaucracy.

Canadians and “stakeholders” can now give their opinion on “which entities would be subject to the new rules; what types of harmful content would be regulated; new rules and obligations for regulated entities; and two new regulatory bodies and an Advisory Board to administer and oversee the new framework and enforce its rules and obligations.”

Opening the Door to Blanket Censorship

The very broad mention of “types of harmful content” is fleshed out by a statement in the proposal documents’ “Technical Paper” by instructing commenters that ”the concept of non-consensual sharing of intimate images should consider criminal law offenses in this area set out in the Criminal Code, in a manner adapted to the regulatory context, with the intent to capture the communication of an intimate image of a person that the person depicted in the image or video did not give their consent to distributing, or for which it is not possible to assess if a consent to the distribution was given by the person depicted in the image or video.”

The last clause (“for which it is not possible to assess if a consent to the distribution was given by the person depicted in the image or video”) opens the door to a blanket ban of all adult material based on the vague notion of “what is possible to assess” about consent by merely viewing a video.

Groups like NCOSE and Exodus Cry, and anti-porn activists like Laila Mickelwait (who, as XBIZ has reported, was invited earlier this year to testify before Canadian Parliament) have long argued that since neither age nor consent can be verified by merely watching a video or image, all sexual content online should be subject to takedowns. Long-standing First Amendment and free speech arguments, they allege, are not applicable because of vague anti-“human trafficking” carveouts, including FOSTA-SESTA.

To participate in the discussion, the Canadian Government is inviting stakeholders and Canadians to submit comments by email to pch.icn-dci.pch@canada.ca

The comment-gathering campaign is managed by the Digital Citizen Initiative of the Department of Canadian Heritage, which an also be contacted at (819) 997-0055, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (PDT).

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