Innovation Minister announces Digital Charter, details 10 principles to combat online extremism

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains formally announced the government’s Digital Charter with a 10 point principle that aims to combat hate speech and online disinformation.

At an event on May 21st, hosted by the Empire Club of Canada, Bains said that “at the heart of these challenges is the question of trust.”

“How can [Canadians] trust their data will be used to improve their lives when it’s used to bombard them with disinformation?” Bains said in his speech, which was obtained by MobileSyrup.

Bains said that there will be 10 principles “based on Canadian values against which all government policies, programs and legislation will be tested.”

The principles include:
Universal access
Safety and security
Control and consent
Transparency, portability and interoperability
Open and modern digital government
Level playing field
Data and digital for good
Strong democracy
Free from hate and violent extremism
Strong enforcement and real accountability

Bains explained in his speech that the first principle is the government’s commitment for Canadians to have an equal opportunity in accessing the digital world. The second is focusing on “integrity, authenticity, and security of services.”

He said the third principle will focus on helping Canadians have “control over what data they are sharing, how it’s using their personal data and for what purposes.”

The fifth principle is making sure Canadians are able to access digital services provided by the government, while the sixth is focusing on “fair competition in the online marketplace” that will be to ensure Canadian businesses grow.

Bains said the seventh principle is centred on ensuring the “ethical use of data to create value, promote openness, and improve the lives of people,” while the eighth aims to ensure the transparency of political discourse, defend freedom of expression and protect against online threats.

He noted the ninth principle will help ensure that Canadians can expect “that digital platforms will not foster or disseminate hate, violent extremism or illegal content.”

Lastly, the tenth principle aims for there to be “clear, meaningful penalties for violations of the laws and regulations that support these principles.”

He added that more information will be provided by Liberal colleagues in the coming weeks.

The news of the charter was announced at a time that various countries signed onto the “Christchurch Call,” including the same tech giants. The companies outlined a nine-point plan to help fight hate and extremism online.

The ‘Christchurch Call’ was signed in an effort to combat hate speech and online disinformation after a gunman killed 51 people praying in a Mosque while livestreaming on Facebook.

Bains added that he has also sent a letter to the Competition Bureau “to ensure he has the tools necessary to promote competition and create a healthy environment.”

He also said that the government plans to launch the Data Governance Standardization Collaborative to “better coordinate the development and compatibility of data governance standards in Canada.”

This will help create a level playing field in the digital economy, said Bains.

A senior ISED government official said during a technical briefing that there was no specific deadline to when legislation will be put in place but that this charter was the next step in putting in legislation.

The official said that includes looking at modernizing the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), the Privacy Act (mandated under a different government ministry), an analysis of competition in the country, and gathering information from the Statistics Act.

The official did not clearly state that any legislation holding social media giants accountable would be made before the election this fall.

The official clarified that PIPEDA’s application is to commercial purposes and the charter gives rise to questions whether other possessors of personal information including organizations for whom are not covered by PIPEDA warrant some sort of coverage.

Update 21/05/19: The article was updated with additional reporting