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Canada launches Digital Charter to combat hate speech and fake news

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says social media platforms will be held accountable for disinformation and hate speech online.

Canada wants to promote both safety and innovation online.
Government of Canada

Canada has launched its new Digital Charter, designed to protect its citizens online and enforce rules governing social media platforms.

The charter will target fake news and hate speech online, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.

"The platforms are failing their users, and they're failing our citizens," Trudeau said. "They have to step up in a major way to counter disinformation. And if they don't, we will hold them to account and there will be meaningful financial consequences."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Getty Images

The 10 principles of the charter are: 

  • Universal access.
  • Safety and security.
  • Control and consent.
  • Transparency, portability and interoperability.
  • Open and modern digital government.
  • A level playing field.
  • Ensuring data and digital media are used for good.
  • Strong democracy.
  • Freedom from hate and violent extremism.
  • Strong enforcement and real accountability.

The last three principles deal with hate speech and disinformation.

"The Government of Canada will defend freedom of expression and protect against online threats and disinformation designed to undermine the integrity of elections and democratic institutions," the charter says.

"Canadians can expect that digital platforms will not foster or disseminate hate, violent extremism or criminal content.

"There will be clear, meaningful penalties for violations of the laws and regulations that support these principles."

The launch of the charter follows Canada last week signing the Christchurch Call following the March terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Canada was joined by the governments of Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Germany, France, the European Commission, Indonesia, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway, Senegal, Spain and Sweden, as well as eight tech companies: Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, Microsoft, Daily Motion, Qwant and YouTube.

The Christchurch Call, led by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron, is a plan to prevent terrorists from uploading extremist content online, and to increase transparency around tech companies' algorithms and the detection and removal of such content.

The US didn't sign the call.