The Online Harms Act

Supriya Dwivedi, a “senior advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau”, in the Toronto Star:

Critics are once again engaging in bad faith tactics and are trying to frame the issue of online harms as a false dichotomy between freedom of expression and clamping down on online harms, including online hate speech. Don’t let them.


While our government is certainly up for debate on how to improve the bill — including hearing from stakeholders, experts, and everyone in between on which provisions they feel should be fired into the sun — we need to have a conversation that is rooted in reality. Unfortunately, a lot of the commentary on the bill has been light on facts and heavy on hyperbole.

It would be easy to dismiss this as boosting by a person close to a government pushing this bill if not for a cautiously optimistic post I read a month ago from Michael Geist:

My initial post made the case that “this feels like the first Internet regulation bill from this government that is driven primarily by policy rather than implementing the demands of lobby groups or seeking to settle scores with big tech.” Upon reflection, I think that remains true for the provisions focused on the Internet platforms, which are the product of several years of expert panels and public consultations. There is still a need to address Bill C-63 concerns involving enforcement and the powers of the proposed Digital Safety Commission, but Internet regulation to counter identifiable harms remains justified since leaving the issue solely to the police is unlikely to mitigate against the risks of amplification of those harms on social media services.

There are things Geist wants to see changed, clearly, and they are not small. But if someone as careful as Geist is not seeing creeping authoritarianism or a free speech emergency in this bill, it is a good sign everyone should take a deep breath.