Canada's new bill threatens free speech

There’s some decent jurisprudence on the laws; and an old (2011) CBC article on it.

The (edit: de-one-boxed) very right wing National Post is weighing in as well with some more history on the topic; the hate-speech law died once in parliament only to be revived by our Supreme Court.

Where I think the current :canada: bill is missing the point is where liability could also fix this problem, as well as a number of others we have that arise from overly powerful, under-moderated platforms. The rise of platforms which provide a huge audience and have algorithmic drivers was not anticipated by Section 230 of the CDA. Legal protection under Section 230 has been bounded already, but I think some new limits are warranted given the newer technology.

Were for-profit platforms legally liable for content when they branded it under their own masthead, monetized it and/or recommended it, then the business model for the Twitters and Facebooks of the world would quickly collapse, taking the bulk of the current problems with them.

We’d probably need some stronger data resale and protection/leak penalty laws to seal the deal.

Monitoring smaller, hate-focused groups on line would then be easier. They would be driven to smaller, specialized on-line forums, which would limit the reach of those groups (both the organic or foreign influenced type), and their influence to sway the merely discontented would be much weaker.


That ignores how it’s being used by politicians, the media, and figures in authority. Their twisted equation is (anti-Palestinian genocide) = anti-Israel = anti-Semitic = pro-genocide.


The Atlantic article seems more than a bit hyperbolic.

A recognizance is no mere promise to refrain from committing hate crimes.

Is there a difference in legal languages here? It sounds like a standard restraining order, like one against an abusive ex-spouse with a weapon collection, a history of stalking, and reasonable expectation of harm. (OMG! A pre-crime order against someone even though they haven’t murdered anyone yet!)

The judge may put the defendant under house arrest or electronic surveillance and order them to abstain from alcohol and drugs. Refusal to “enter the recognizance” for one year results in 12 months in prison.

This is madness.

This. Is. Canada!

And that sounds like the normal Find Out when someone doesn’t agree with a restraining order.


And as a historian, you’ll be well aware that the commonly cited "obvious limitation " on freedom of expression - the whole “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” thing- was used as an excuse to surpress anti-war and anti-conscription voices.


Their position is grounded in the olden days when most media was print media, there was a truly independent press and journalism was for truth not for clicks. Even then, lies outpaced the truth like a cheetah racing a tortoise.

The underlying premise of free speech absolutism is that good speech will always overcome bad speech. That wasn’t always the case (Remember the Maine!) but now it is willfully naive in the era of instant global mass communication.

When someone can anonymously assault someone they don’t like; when a brigade of bad actors can coordinate swatting or doxxing an innocent target; when a jerk in their parent’s basement can fake a scientific article and spread it globally through right wing media while it takes months to propagate refutation of the article, such that it alters public policy: there is no room for such unrestricted speech.


Here is a very good post explaining the serious flaws in Bill C-63 Trudeau's 'online harms' bill threatens free speech - Dimitri Lascaris: Activist Journalist Lawyer


This. I personally know people who have been driven to take their own lives due to incessant, unrelenting harassment. Even those who haven’t gone to that extreme are severely affected by the hate speech pervading current discourse, myself included.

I can only really speak directly for the trans experience, but as a general rule, the mental health of MANY trans folk is in the toilet because we’re being exposed to hate speech and it’s resulting violence (physical and legislative) constantly, and it’s not ok. We just want to live our lives in the way that makes us happy and not bother anyone but because of hate, our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are all being infringed. Hate speech is what’s doing that.


It’s not as if free speech in America is completely unregulated. American free speech is constrained by libel laws. Now Canadian free speech is constrained by libel laws and restrictions on hate speech. This seems like a good thing to me.


Owned by Postmedia, which is owned by Chatham Asset Management, which has tight central editorial control over the chain and pushes American right-libertarian viewpoints.


Ehh…some of that analysis makes some good points, some of it doesn’t. He takes issue, for example, with the prohibition of speech that “incites violence” because that’s not narrowly defined. I don’t know much about free speech in Canada, but with the US Constitution’s First Amendment, well and long established precedent from our Supreme Court already holds that speech that “incites violence” is not protected by the First Amendment. And somehow, free speech in the US has not collapsed under that definition. Now, hate speech that falls short of inciting violence probably is protected speech in the US. And I would be nervous about placing restrictions on that speech. It would need to be really carefully defined, or, as many here have pointed out, could easily be used to silence legitimate protest by groups like BLM or pro-Palestinian protestors on the grounds that they are inciting hatred of the majority. And sure, some of that is already happening, but laws like this could easily make that oppression even worse, unintentionally. You have to consider what happens when people acting in bad faith get to enforce these laws. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to legally curtail hate speech. I’m just saying we have to be really, really careful. Unintended consequences can bite us in the ass.


It is also heavily regulated in certain circumstances. Revealing classified materials is heavily restricted. The SEC regulates statements by companies or their representatives that affect investor behavior and stock valuation. The FDA regulates speech as it concerns the marketing of foods, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices.

These are all good things to regulate and I’m sure they are just a sample of restrictions on free speech.

In other words, “Free Speech” is a lie told by someone who’s trying to sell you something.


Shall we venture into how much HIPAA laws limit free speech? Also a very good thing that would certainly fall afoul of any free speech absolutists.


The Bill defines these three concepts broadly and ambiguously. This is likely by design. The concepts are broad enough and ambiguous enough to capture peaceful civil disobedience, anti-Zionism, and lawful, armed resistance to brutal oppression.

Wait, what?!

That sounds like an American militia myth.


This article seems to think Canada didn’t already have hate speech laws. Mostly it’s an update to include new forms of communication. And to make it clear you can’t claim you’re merely calling for genocide because of your religion. At least as far as I can tell. Not a lawyer let alone a legal scholar.


As a Canadian, I think it’s worth mentioning that we trust our courts to sensibly interpret the law. Unlike Americans.


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