Skip to main content

Speaking after a meeting of G7 interior ministers on April 5, 2019, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter will test the public’s patience if they fail to exercise better control on the content that they help to disseminate around the world.

KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images

The Canadian government is joining its G7 allies in calling on social-media companies to find new ways to block hate speech and violent content on their platforms or bear a legal and financial cost for the resulting social harm.

Speaking after a meeting of G7 interior ministers on Friday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter will test the public’s patience if they fail to exercise better control on the content that they help to disseminate around the world.

Mr. Goodale referred to the content posted as part of the March 15 attack on two mosques in New Zealand. Prior to the attack, a 74-page "manifesto” was posted to an online right-wing forum, including a link to a Facebook page where a helmet-camera documented the shooting in a graphic 17-minute video. A gunman went on to kill 49 people in their place of worship.

Story continues below advertisement

“The clear message was they have to show us clear progress or governments will use their legislative and regulatory authorities. The message that would get their attention most significantly is when the point is made they may be held legally accountable, and financially accountable, for the social harms that their platforms contribute to and from which they make money," Mr. Goodale said in a telephone interview from Paris.

Mr. Goodale said there was an agreement at the G7 meeting that social-media companies have yet to find the appropriate technology to block violent content from appearing on the platforms and being easily shared.

“Should we treat violent, right-wing extremism just as we would treat a threat from Daesh or ISIL? Yes indeed. It needs to be handled with the same degree of gravity,” he said. “There is a real determination among the G7 countries that we want to see the Internet companies moving faster, being more effective at keeping this stuff off the platforms and prevent it from being shared, prevent it from having the dire consequences that it can have.”

Mr. Goodale said the Canadian government does not have immediate plans to bring in new legislative or regulatory controls over social-media companies, but will insist on “demonstrable” changes.

“Canada will be one of [the countries] demanding that. If we don’t see enough progress fast enough, then we are prepared to act,” Mr. Goodale said.

Social-media companies have relied on artificial intelligence to deal with hate speech and violence on their platforms. Still, the massacre in New Zealand exposed shortcomings in the automated systems that companies say are key to keeping their platforms safe.

Facebook removed 1.2 million attempts to upload copies of the videos in the first 24 hours after the attack, although another 300,000 copies made it through.

Story continues below advertisement

YouTube suspended a function that let users search for the most recently uploaded videos, because copies of the attack were going up faster than the site could take them down.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter