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Facebook urges the Canadian authorities to set guidelines for social media

Facebook says it would welcome increased regulation by the Canadian government, including rules on what type of content should or should not be allowed on social media platforms.

In an interview with CBC News, Kevin Chan, global director and chief of public order at Facebook Canada, said that parliament should clarify what types of content are not allowed.

“On this issue of regulating content, we think that platforms make decisions about all of these things and that we are unsustainable in an uncoordinated manner with different platforms with different postures,” he said. “So we believe that Parliament’s public rules would help clarify these things and obviously apply them online.”

According to Chan, Facebook is already removing content that is considered illegal in Canada, such as hate speech, revenge porn, and content that includes child exploitation or terrorism. It also applies other Canadian laws, e.g. B. Removing ads for things like Baby Walker, which Health Canada has banned from selling in Canada.

According to Chan, Facebook is also going further and removing content that is not illegal in Canada, such as posts that include nudity, bullying, or harassment. While Chan said Facebook had a sophisticated system, it would welcome a move by Parliament to draw the line between prohibited and permitted content.

“We would welcome more rules. We would welcome more guidance and we would welcome … rules that apply to everyone equally.”

Kevin Chan, global director and head of public policy at Facebook Canada, says the tech giant would like to see clearer rules on what can and cannot be published online. (Chris Wattie / Reuters)

Chan said Facebook would also want tougher privacy laws and has called for changes to tax rules like collecting and remitting sales tax to the government.

However, Chan said it would be a mistake for Canada to follow Australia’s attempt to force tech giants to pay news media outlets for their content shared on Facebook.

“Some of the ideas we’ve discussed, like the ones proposed in Australia where Facebook would have to pay for links shared on our platform that we don’t control, will not be workable if we wouldn’t.” I can’t get this to work because things just aren’t shared on Facebook. “

Technology giants legislation expected

Chan’s comments come as he and Canadian Minister of Cultural Heritage Steven Guilbeault are each due to testify separately to the House of Commons Cultural Heritage Committee today about the relationship between Facebook and the government. The hearing was convened after a report last fall suggesting the tech giant’s relationship with some Canadian government officials was too easy.

In his latest mandate letter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Guilbeault of making sure that the revenues of web giants are more fairly shared with the makers and the media. Guilbeault is also charged with ensuring that social media companies “take action against hate groups and online hatred and harassment, ideologically motivated violent extremism and terrorist organizations”.

Canada’s Minister of Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, will testify before the House of Commons Cultural Heritage Committee today. (Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press)

Guilbeault spokeswoman Camille Gagné-Raynault said the government was planning to introduce two separate laws regarding tech giants. The first they want to introduce this winter will deal with “online damage”.

“Second, we are currently exploring options for a Canadian-made formula that would ultimately lead to a comprehensive, coherent and equitable digital framework for Canadian news publishers and digital platforms.”

Questioning social media platforms

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been in the spotlight in recent weeks after right-wing protesters stormed the Washington Capitol. After the uprising, Facebook and Twitter blocked the accounts of former President Donald Trump.

However, as social media giants have exercised more control over the content posted on their websites, those whose content has been removed have focused on other platforms such as Parler, Gab, Telegram or Omega Canada.

It is not clear whether the Canadian government could impose Canadian laws on websites used by Canadians but not located in Canada.

According to Chan, over the past two years Facebook has steadily tightened its community standards, removing groups and individuals who advocate things like white supremacy. More recently, Facebook has removed militarized social networks from its platform and the QAnon conspiracy sites.

According to Chan, Facebook is working with Canadian experts like Barbara Perry, director of the Center for Hate, Propensity, and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, to identify and block extremist content. However, as Facebook removes things like hate speech, those who try to spread it are trying to find ways to bypass Facebook’s systems.

“If we remove certain people, certain presences on Facebook and Instagram, it is very likely that they will develop their tactics and try to circumvent our enforcement measures,” said Chan. “This is an ongoing security question for us and as they evolve we will evolve.”

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.

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