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Censorship Industrial Complex

Trudeau’s new online censorship law – Problems with Bill C-63 / the Online Arms Law

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From the Canadian Constitution Foundation

Proposed Online Harms Act (Bill C-63) described by the Canadian Constitution Foundation

The Trudeau government has proposed a new law to regulate the internet, and it has major constitutional problems.

The Online Harms Act would limit constitutionally-protected expression in the following ways:

– The Bill would create a new process for individuals and groups to complain to the Canadian Human Rights Commission that online speech directed at them is discriminatory. The tribunal could order fines of up to $50,000, and awards of up to $20,000 paid to complainants, who in some cases would be anonymous. Findings would be based on a mere “balance of probabilities” standard rather than the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

– The subjectivity of defining “hate speech” will lead to punishments for protected speech. The mere threat of human rights complaints will chill large amounts of protected speech.

– The Bill would increase the maximum sentence for “advocating genocide” from five years in prison to life in prison. That means words alone could lead to life imprisonment.

– The Bill would allow judges to put prior restraints on people who they believe on reasonable grounds may commit speech crimes in the future. The accused would be forced to choose between imprisonment or a “recognizance to keep the peace” that may be accompanied by severe conditions such as giving a bodily sample, refraining from drugs and alcohol, giving up firearms and wearing an ankle monitor.

– The Bill would require social media companies to “minimize the risk that users of the service will be exposed to harmful content” with the threat of massive fines if they don’t properly mitigate the risk. Social media companies will likely err on the side of caution and block large amounts of speech that is close to the legal line.

– The Bill would require social media companies to provide a mechanism for users to flag content that they believe is “harmful content,” which is defined as including speech that “foments hatred.” This will inevitably lead to censorship of legally-protected speech.

– The Bill would require social media companies to report on how they dealt with perfectly legal but otherwise “harmful content” that “the operator had reasonable grounds to believe posed a risk of significant psychological or physical harm.” This appears aimed at encouraging social media companies to censor speech that the government cannot outlaw.

In this episode I mention a tweet thread by my colleague Josh Dehaas. You can read it here:   / 1762510237032951848  

I also mention an op-ed by my colleague Joanna Baron. You can read it here: https://thehub.ca/2024-02-28/joanna-b…

I also talk about two important Supreme Court cases about hate speech. You can read those cases here: https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc…   https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc…

Please write to your MP to express your concerns about this law using this online portal we created: https://theccf.ca/fix-c-63/

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Censorship Industrial Complex

Australia passes digital ID bill, raising fears of government surveillance without accountability

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From LifeSiteNews

By David James

Critics argue the legislation, enacted under the guise of increased security, ramps up government surveillance and control, with no accountability mechanisms for public sector misuse.

The Australian Parliament has passed the Digital ID Bill 2024 and Digital ID (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2024 which, it claims, will provide “certainty” for the expansion of the existing Australian government digital ID system.

The move is being presented as a way to improve “privacy and security” for people when interacting online by “verifying” users’ identities. The government claims that the legislation will reduce fraud and other malpractice by private actors, but the bill says nothing about the public actors, the government. The implication is that that the public sector will never do anything wrong with its increased powers, raising the suspicion that it is yet another move by state and federal governments to increase surveillance and control over the lives of citizens.

Australia is a paternalistic society and there is no mechanism to hold the executive branch of government accountable – indeed the possibility is rarely raised. There is thus nothing to stop more intrusions into people’s privacy by the government.

Commenting on the passing of the bill, Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts from the One Nation Party said that, while the voluntary system has been presented as a measure for security and convenience it could lead to significant privacy breaches, cyber-attacks, and government overreach. He described it as a potential attack on Australians’ “freedom, privacy, and way of life,” especially if it eventually becomes mandatory.

Roberts pointed to the Digital ID bill, the Online Safety Act, the Identity Services Verification Act, and the Misinformation and Disinformation Bill as elements of what looks like a coordinated plan by the federal government “to identify, punish and imprison anyone who resists this slide back into serfdom.” In the initial inquiry into the Digital ID bill, he said, the Human Rights Commission “drew attention to the lack of protection of privacy and human rights in the bill,” but it was ignored. Roberts added that the bill is very similar to legislation being implemented in other Western nations.

A significant proportion of the Australian population has concluded that politicians and the public sector cannot be trusted and that they fail to scrutinize their own actions. As if to underline this unaccountability, the Digital ID bill was passed using “tricks used to stifle debate and public discussion,” according to former federal senator Craig Kelly. He said on X (formerly Twitter) that the way the bill was passed was “contrary to precedent, the spirit of the Constitution and [the] Westminster tradition.”

“Labor introduced the Digital ID in the Senate (the House of review) instead of the House of Representatives,” Kelly wrote. “Then they guillotined debate in the Senate. And in House of Representatives, Labor shifted debate to the Federation Chamber where the Liberals put up token resistance with only one Liberal MP and two National MP’s bothering to speak on the Bill – and they didn’t even try any amendments to protect privacy or to try and safeguard against it being made compulsory.”

The government mendacity continues – at a time when federal laws against “disinformation and misinformation” are being debated. There is constant propaganda in government-funded media outlets about what an effective job was done against the “pandemic” by pursuing lockdowns and mass vaccination. It is false; there was no pandemic. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 2020 and 2021 had the lowest number of deaths from respiratory diseases since records have been kept.

The federal government, in a statement, is giving the impression that the move is merely a way to protect vulnerable Australians, to give certainty for providers and services, and to provide transparency in order “to build public trust.” But what is not said is more important than what is said. There is no mechanism for Australians to redress wrongs committed by the government.

What should happen is something that has never existed in Australia: the establishment of a way for Australians to hold the public sector accountable and stop their governments becoming a menace, as occurred during the “pandemic.” Unless public servants are at risk of being penalized, or at least of having their actions constrained, there is a strong likelihood that fears about the Digital ID Bill will ultimately be realized.

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Censorship Industrial Complex

Jim Jordan Exposes Biden’s Censorship-Industrial Complex

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By TOM HEBERT

 

“Internal talking points prepared by Amazon,” says the report, “included the question: ‘Is the [Biden] Admin asking us to remove books, or are they more concerned about search results/order (or both).’”

High-ranking Biden White House operatives coerced Big Tech companies into censoring posts critical of the Biden administration or those that spread so-called “misinformation” about COVID-19. A blockbuster new report from the House Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan, exposes how the Biden administration weaponized Big Tech against conservatives.

“The report,” the committee said when it released it, “details the months-long campaign by the Biden White House to coerce large companies, namely Facebook, Google, and Amazon, to censor books, videos, posts, and other content online. By the end of 2021, Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon changed their content moderation policies in ways that were directly responsive to criticism from the Biden Administration.”

This report is the result of a multi-year investigation by the Judiciary Committee’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. The evidence, including tens of thousands of emails and other non-public documents, shows a disturbing pattern of Biden officials pressuring Big Tech companies into censoring Americans online.

Shortly after Biden’s inauguration in 2021, then-White House Digital Director Rob Flaherty began haranguing top Facebook officials for more detail on their policies for taking down COVID-19 related posts. “In February 2021,” says the report, “Facebook increased its censorship of anti-vaccine content as well as the lab leak theory of the origin of the virus because of ‘tense conversations with the new [Biden] Administration’ and as part of an effort to be responsive to the Biden White House’s exhortations to ‘do more’ to combat alleged misinformation.”

As 2021 progressed, the White House demanded to know what Facebook was doing to censor “borderline content,” posts that did not violate Facebook’s content moderation policies but were nevertheless objectionable to Biden officials. “Facebook would meet again with the Biden White House on March 12, 2021, to discuss how it was approaching ‘borderline content,’ that is, content that did not violate its policies,” says the report.

“Facebook walked through its policies and enforcement practices for violative and borderline content,” it says. “But call notes reveal that throughout the meeting, Flaherty continued to ask about the removal and reduction of content above all else.”

Unsatisfied with Facebook’s unwillingness to “play ball,” Flaherty and the White House played hard ball. On July 16, 2021, a reporter asked Biden: “On Covid misinformation, what’s your message to platforms like Facebook?” Biden responded: “They’re killing people.”

In response to the intense pressure from the White House, Facebook went on to change their content moderation policies and censored posts about vaccine hesitancy and the lab-leak theory.

Facebook was not the only social media platform that Biden officials pressured. In April 2021, Flaherty reached out to YouTube with a litany of questions about YouTube’s efforts to censor borderline content. “Flaherty’s email was particularly focused on how YouTube handled non-violative ‘borderline’ content,” says the report. “These requests were prefaced by stating the Biden White House wanted ‘to be sure that you have a handle on vaccine hesitancy generally and are working toward making the problem better’ and that this ‘is a concern that is shared at the highest (and I mean highest) level of the [White House].’”

After Flaherty succeeded in making YouTube change its content moderation policies “to remove content that questioned the safety or efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines,” other Biden bureaucrats started to pester YouTube employees to clamp down on other content. In March 2022, according to the committee report, former Biden advisor Tim Wu asked for a meeting with Google employees to discuss “Russian misinformation/disinformation” and “airline competition.”

Another staffer communicated with YouTube about abortion-related content. “On July 14, 2022, YouTube Government Affairs staff contacted White House personnel to brief them on ‘updates related to addressing reproductive health misinformation on YouTube,’ to which White House staff responded, saying that they were ‘specifically interested in abortion,’” said the report.

Biden officials clearly sought to censor content they perceived as politically damaging to Biden.

The report also shows the White House’s obsession suppressing books that they disagreed with. In March 2021, the Biden White House emailed an Amazon executive “asking to have a discussion regarding the ‘high levels of propaganda and misinformation and disinformation at Amazon.’”

“Internal talking points prepared by Amazon,” says the report, “included the question: ‘Is the [Biden] Admin asking us to remove books, or are they more concerned about search results/order (or both).’”

There are two important takeaways from this report.

One, the Biden administration sought to impose a censorship regime through Big Tech to benefit the president politically.

Two, Congress should act to prevent future government-directed censorship of American speech. There are numerous bills that would address this problem. The House passed the “Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act” last year, legislation that would ban bureaucrats from advocating for censorship of viewpoints. The “Free Speech Protection Act” imposes penalties on bureaucrats who censor speech, and the “Censorship Accountability Act” would allow  Americans to sue bureaucrats who violate their First Amendment rights.

The Biden administration has displayed an appalling amount of contempt for American free speech. Exposing Biden’s censorship-industrial complex is an important first step toward ensuring that unelected bureaucrats do not have a veto over what we say online.

Tom Hebert is Director of Competition and Regulatory Policy at Americans for Tax Reform and executive director of the Open Competition Center.

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