The NDP leader Jagmeet Singh recently suggested that the Canadian government should do more than they have been doing when it comes to addressing online hate speech. Rather than leave it up to the corporations and social media giants to censor those communications, he says the government should regulate that online hate to address concerns from religious groups.
According to Singh, the current existing model is that we leave social media characters like Zuckerberg to do it. However, there are already regulations in Canada surrounding harmful speech. Cracking down on and seeking to censor free speech further for Canadians is a questionable move which could end up unjustly violating that freedom of speech and this is not a stance you would expect a nation like Canada to take.
Protecting freedom of speech means protecting criticism, protecting the right to be wrong and the freedom to express dissent. There are already penalties in Canada related to hate speech and hate propaganda. Harassing or threatening someone for example these are not to ever be considered as protected actions of free speech.
What does Singh mean by ‘online hate’? There are actions people can take in protecting themselves online already that are available today. It could be the action of deleting or suspending their account, to blocking people who they do not want to communicate with. The insinuation that these companies do not give tools available to protect users is not a correct assumption.
Singh admits there are rules surrounding hate speech and hate propaganda offline in Canada but that these rules should apply online.
It might be difficult for Canadian lawmakers to sort this one out, even though they’ve previously launched a study of online hate several years ago. It is clearly a priority for lawmakers today in that they want to do something about online hate, but what can be done? For one previous case in Canada that had one man being charged for harassment over his Tweets, he was ultimately found not guilty with the judge ruling that the tweets were obscene but they weren’t threatening.
That case was believed to be one of the first of its kind with Canadian courts weighing in the issue that has grown to capture media headlines frequently and make its way into U.S. Senate hearings, what can everyone do about online hate?
There are other more educational and less restrictive ways to address this problem then seeking to get more federal government action to regulate this issue.