Facebook is no longer sustainable for social media companies to self-police content and time for governments to step in, the head of public policy for Facebook Canada said Friday.
That’s why the social media giant is welcoming ongoing work by the federal Liberal government to roll out a plan, Kevin Chan told the House of Commons heritage committee.
“Right now, it’s private companies like Facebook that are deciding what is and isn’t allowed on Facebook and we think that that doesn’t sit well with many people and they want public rules where there is legitimate public and democratic accountability,” he said.
“And so to the extent that lawmakers can agree on where that line should be drawn and then impose those lines on us, I think that would be certainly welcome.”
Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault told the committee work is underway as part of a three-pronged response to the challenges that social media platforms and other major internet-based content providers pose to the ways media in Canada has been regulated, financed and policed in the past.
One part of the response is a bill currently before the House of Commons to modernize the broadcasting regime, and a second is work to address how major internet companies are taxed, and in turn how traditional media companies are financially supported.
Then there is the issue of online hate, Guilbeault said, which has been brought to the fore during the pandemic as Canadians relied on digital communications to be connected and informed.
“Unfortunately, some internet users are also exploiting these platforms maliciously, to spread hate, racism and child pornography,” he said.
The coming bill will define a regulatory framework on hate speech, child pornography and content that incites people to violence, Guilbeault said.
A regulator will be established to implement the new rules and have the power to levy fines for infractions.
Both Guilbeault and Chan’s appearance at committee came amid intensifying debate over the tension between free speech on social media platforms and calls for government regulation of it, especially in light of deadly riots in the U.S. Capitol earlier this month that had been coordinated and facilitated by content posted on social media.