Politics

Ottawa proposes new rules to crack down on harmful online content

The Liberal government has laid out a blueprint for cracking down on harmful online materials posted to platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

Rules would impose fines on companies that do not remove content

Under proposed new federal rules, social media sites could face fines if they do not remove content deemed harmful. (Pixabay)

The Liberal government has laid out a blueprint for cracking down on harmful material posted online to platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

Under the proposed rules, a digital safety commissioner would help enforce a new regime that requires social media companies to weed out child pornography, terrorist content, hate speech and other harmful posts.

The penalty for violating the proposed new rules ranges up to five per cent of a platform's gross global revenue, or $25 million, whichever is higher.

If Facebook were to face such a fine, that penalty could amount to as much as $5.4 billion, based on its total revenues last year.

The new legislation and regulations would cover all "online communication service providers" — which includes social media sites such as Instagram and Pornhub but not telecommunications companies like Bell and Rogers or email and text messages sent via WhatsApp or Parler.

The Trudeau government announced in April it would introduce legislation to create a regulator that will ensure online platforms remove harmful content, and now says it plans to present the final framework this fall after public consultation.

The measures would require flagging mechanisms for harmful material, a 24-hour time frame for platforms to respond to flagged posts, avenues of appeal for companies' decisions and regular reports to the commissioner about the volume and type of harmful content.

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