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By Yuan Stevens, J Source

In the wake of the leaks by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, at least one thing remains clear: social media companies cannot be left to their own devices for addressing harmful content online.

But Canada is currently on a path to regulating “online harms” that global experts have decried as among the worst in the world.

Why was this law proposed in Canada, and why now? Immediately after the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government began to make good on an election promise from 2019 to introduce a law modelled after the German Network Enforcement Act — commonly known as NetzDG.

Despite Canada’s longstanding role as a champion of human rights and internet freedom, the law proposed has numerous flaws that call the country’s reputation into question.

The Canadian law would have 24-hour content blocking requirements for illegal content just like the German law, which has provided a blueprint for online censorship by authoritarian regimes.

But the law would go much further than Germany’s NetzDG, and not in a good way. NetzDG requires removal of “manifestly unlawful” content within 24 hours but gives platforms seven days to assess content that falls in legally gray areas. There is no nuance like this in Canada’s proposed blocking requirements, and that’s a problem.

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