July 13, 2024
Justice Minister Arif Virani speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa regarding the new online harms bill on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.

The online harms bill risks replacing digital anarchy with a surveillance state

If all these new regulatory bodies and adjudicators are overzealous, it will have a chilling effect on the behaviour of Canadians online

John Stuart Mill’s ideas on liberty and the freedom of the individual in the face of state and social control remain as relevant today as when he wrote them in 1859.

Individuals must be free to form opinions and to express those opinions without reservation, short of “making himself a nuisance to other people.”“Society can, and does, execute its own mandates, and if it issues the wrong mandates … in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression,” he wrote in On Liberty, a rejection of the “tyranny of prevailing opinion.”

The Canadian government has just executed its own mandate over the internet: the Online Harms Act. The bill is weighty, creating regulation over social media platforms; making changes to the Criminal Code to create new hate crime offences; and amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to allow for the adjudication of disputes over what constitutes hateful material online.

A judgment on whether it is the “wrong mandate” will only be possible when we can see how it is enacted.

But what can be said is that the rising tide of hate online required a government response — and that this iteration of the legislation is a drastic improvement on the proposal put forward after the 2021 election.

Interesting Read…

See Also:

New Liberal ‘online harms’ bill to make online hate punishable up to life in prison

Government choosing how porn sites should verify age would be a disaster

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