NDP calls for social media watchdog as scrutiny of Facebook heats up

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New Democrats are demanding the federal government crack down on the social media giant following recent revelations by a Facebook executive that have rekindled questions about how to regulate big tech.

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NDP MP Charlie Angus called on Ottawa to establish an independent watchdog to remove misinformation, hate posts and algorithmic transparency on digital platforms.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before a US Senate committee earlier this month that the company’s products harm children and fuel polarization in the US, a claim supported by the company’s internal research in the Wall Street Journal. got leaked.

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“MS. Haugen disclosed that Facebook knew that its algorithms were driving hate content and leading to a breakdown in civic engagement,” Angus said.

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“Facebook decided to incentivize profits through the use of its algorithms on the well-being of its users.”

As the company faces intense public scrutiny about its coding fans making inflammatory rhetoric and affecting users’ self-esteem, Angus is proposing to create an independent ombudsman for the House of Commons, similar to Canada’s ethics and privacy commissioners .

“Instead of relying on outdated institutions like the Competition Bureau or the CRTC, it is time for the federal government to establish a regulator that really understands this file,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made several pledges in last month’s federal election to overhaul internet rules.

Following the failure of a liberal bill aimed at regulating Facebook and other platforms, Ek promised within 100 days of forming a government to introduce legislation that combats harmful online content.

The plan would create a Digital Security Commissioner to implement a new regime that targets child pornography, terrorist content, hate speech and other harmful posts on social media platforms. The regulator’s teeth will be sharp enough to order social media companies to remove posts within 24 hours.

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Many large platforms already have policies that claim to meet or exceed these requirements, some of which seek to expose or remove misleading information – for example, about COVID-19 vaccines. In.

New Democrats and Conservatives have also questioned why a new regulator is needed to crack down on exploitative material when the Criminal Code already prohibits child pornography, hate speech and the knowledge distribution of illegal images.

Trudeau has further said that he will reintroduce provisions of Bill C-10, which died in the Senate in August after the election began. The legislation sought to bring global online streaming giants such as Netflix and YouTube under the auspices of the Broadcasting Act, requiring them to promote Canadian content and financially support Canada’s cultural industries. Governance is overseen by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Angus said on Monday that the bill amounted to a “political dumpster fire” and that Canada’s telecommunications regulator’s address to the Facebook algorithm would bring “a 1980s solution to the problem of the 21st century.”

The law provoked months of debate over whether its regulation of online video outweighed the government, with free speech advocates criticizing the bill and the arts community backing it.

Angus said, “I think it’s probably better for us to set up a stand-alone official of parliament — who reports to parliament, who understands technology, who understands algorithms — to hand it over to a CRTC scholar.” instead,” Angus said. Bill C-10 contained “good ideas” around enforcing broadcast rules for funding big technology.

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Facebook was not immediately available for comment on Monday.

In an e-mailed statement last week, Facebook Canada said it continues to make investments that target misinformation and harmful content.

“Canadians come to Facebook to connect with loved ones, grow their businesses, and share what matters to them,” the company wrote.

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