The past few years have seen social media giants take a more active approach in policing the types of people and content on their platforms.
Just yesterday, for example, Facebook banned Toronto’s Faith Goldy, who finished third in the city’s 2018 mayoral race on a somewhat white supremacist platform, as part of a wider crackdown on far-right figures.
But for many governments, these efforts aren’t enough. Including Canada’s.
According to Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, the federal government is “actively considering” regulating social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. That would mean applying Canadian laws to international companies – or, as Gould puts it, an “all options are on the table” approach.
“We recognize that self-regulation is not yielding the results that societies are expecting these companies to deliver,” Gould said. “We are actively talking to partners around the world, we’re actively talking to experts here in Canada as well in terms of what can be done. And I remain open to many different options as to how we can ensure better behaviour.”
Ok, pretty vague so far. But the fact that the feds are exploring ways to tackle online content should ruffle some feathers in the free speech camp. Of course, it should go without saying that stopping incitement of violence, childrens’ access to disturbing material, discrimination, hate speech, and the like should be a priority for any government.
The big challenge will be creating a black and white framework for determining what is appropriate and what should be banned. There’s also concern that governments could too easily dismiss information as “fake news” if it challenges their interests.
Given the government’s performance in seamlessly regulating cannabis or, say, the telecommunications industry, I’m skeptical any attempt to police the internet will bear meaningful results.