Policing comments on social media as a way of limiting harassment

On Wednesday, May 9th, 2018 in Debate, Parliament

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I agree entirely with my friend from Nanaimo—Ladysmith and share her concerns that Premier Rachel Notley experiences death threats. I have already said in the media recently that I do as well.

I want to hone in on one area where the comments are the most vile and are not really touched on by Bill C-65. Forgive me for going a bit outside the scope of this act. Does my friend from Nanaimo—Ladysmith not agree that we need to find a way to police the comments of social media, things that are essentially published? In the old days, by which I mean not that long ago, with anything that was published in a newspaper, the editors would make sure they knew the identity of the person posting a comment, and a comment could not be an incitement to hatred or violence. However, on Twitter and Facebook, we do not control those spaces. I wonder if my friend from Nanaimo—Ladysmith has any thoughts on that.

Sheila Malcolmson – Member for Nanaimo-Ladysmith

I welcome the question, Mr. Speaker.

It is true. At a time when threats of violence were phoned in or mailed in, that was one thing. The rest of the world did not see them in the way that people do on social media. Either way, I want to give deep thanks to all of the workers who support us as parliamentarians. They screen us from some of the most difficult comments, but they themselves take the brunt of that. That is a workplace issue, and I thank them for protecting us so well.

The thing I am concerned about, though, is that the sexual, misogynistic, hateful things that are said online are for everybody to see. I am concerned that others watching, especially women and marginalized groups, who have a hard time getting into places like this anyway because of the barriers they face, look at those comments online and think, “Do I want to subject my family to that?” We should not be doing anything that turns people off.

Therefore, the very first and best remedy that we have is to restore to the Canadian Human Rights Act the protections removed by the Conservative government—the Liberal government should have done this already—and to make online threats and comments subject to complaint in the same way that phone calls and letters are.

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