And Now The Prime Minister Of Canada Is Threatening To Fine Social Media Companies Over 'Fake News'

from the please-stop dept

Oh good. Now Canada wants in on the "fake news" action.

Canada is introducing a digital charter that will impose "meaningful financial consequences" on tech companies if they don't reign in misinformation on their platforms, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.

Trudeau made the announcement during a speech in Paris at the Viva Technology conference. He said that social media companies have “failed their users” and announced the Canada will establish a new digital charter aimed at universal access, countering online extremism and misinformation, and transparency.

Not included in this announcement:

  • What "misinformation" means in this context
  • How fines will be handed out
  • What collateral damage this will cause to free expression
  • Why any of this is necessary

Apparently, this all flows from the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand. On top of "eradicating terrorist and violent content… once and for all," the Canadian government will apparently be punishing tech companies for failing to eradicate anything the Canadian government believes isn't real. The phrase "meaningful financial consequences" was used.

Perhaps the biggest misconception government officials hold about social media platforms is that moderation is easy. They find a few examples of stuff they think should be banned and they assume anyone can do the same thing, even when dealing with millions of uploads a minute. They also believe moderators should instinctively recognize this content immediately, no matter the context, and act to remove it before it's seen by others.

Something as nebulous as "fake news" is going to be a lot harder to moderate than "terrorist and violent content." Even the latter has its own issues, as much of what's considered "terrorist and violent" can also be newsworthy or crucial to law enforcement investigations.

"Fake news" tends to be whatever top government officials declare it is. If that's all it takes, tech companies will be fined as often as grandstanders open their mouths. As we've seen here in the US, President Trump can't go more than a day without calling someone or something "fake news." If that same hostility towards the press is shown in Canada -- and it's not inconceivable someone like Trump could become Prime Minister -- tech companies will have two choices: pay fines constantly or subject their users to a ton of moderation collateral damage.

This won't make things better for Canadians. And it won't do them any favors when it comes to them expressing themselves online. Demanding more moderation using meaningless buzzwords is a great way to open up a portal to moderation hell. If the Canadian government can find a better approach to tackling "fake news" than perpetually fining social media companies, it probably should excuse itself from the discussion.

Filed Under: canada, disinformation, fake news, fines, free speech, justin trudeau, social media


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 9:40am

    Too big to moderate is the online version of too big to fail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 9:48am

      Re:

      Too big to moderate is the online

      Good content moderations is impossible at any scale.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 9:56am

      Re:

      Exactly. This is what I've been saying for a while now, though I prefer the term "too big to succeed."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 11:30am

      Re:

      I have new for you, it is impossible to moderate the output of the human race, and efforts to do so will silence the majority, regardless of whether their views are mainstream, extremist, or somewhere in between.

      Why do you support politicians in tackling problems caused by a fraction of a percent of humanity removing the facilities enjoyed by the majority of humanity.

      Besides which problems are not solved by removing the means, alternatives means are always available, but by tackling the root causes, which is a much more difficult problem, often directly related to wealth inequality.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 12:20pm

        Re: Re:

        Nwo tosses this up to the Canooks to see how many riot before introducing this kind of crap to the US audience. TAKE OFF, EH

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 11:43am

      Re:

      Moderation of idiots, by idiots, to protect idiots from hearing idiot ideas..
      Prove it.
      Prove opinion? In our dreams.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 12:02pm

      Re:

      So you are saying that they are obligated to moderate to a vague and shifting set of standards of others? I believe the word for that is "censorship" - moderation is when you do it for yourself and your own interests.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 9:42am

    Fake Out

    It'll be interesting if someone has to fact-check all the statements coming from the White House. That would pretty much shut down El Cheetos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 10:03am

      Re: Fake Out

      The Orangutan in Chief wouldn't get to post anything at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 10:48am

        Re: Re: Fake Out

        As policy this is very much in keeping with the Frankfurt School philosophy to effect social change. Effeminate in Canada or Orange in the US - which is more willing and eager to destroy society in order to save society. Effeminate is definitely winning the race.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 17 May 2019 @ 11:15am

      Re: Fake Out

      It would also stifle both houses and every agency.
      Pai would be wrapped in at least ten layers of duct tape.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 9:45am

    Global warming

    Well this ought to finally get rid of all that global warming fake news.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 9:45am

    People are putting more effort into stopping people from talking about extremism than they are stopping the actual extremism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Zof (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 9:49am

    I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

    If you can't name your sources, and link to them, it's fake news. Period. No more fake anonymous nonsense. That's a very reasonable yardstick. If someone beats reality to the punch and makes an intelligent plugin that automatically ignores all news that doesn't have proper vetted real sources, I'd install it in a second.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 9:53am

      Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

      What would you consider to be a primary source? A circular round of one fake source referencing another fake source with a primary source?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 9:56am

      Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

      If you can't name your sources ... blah blah blah ...

      That's easy. Me!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 9:59am

      Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

      If someone beats reality to the punch and makes an intelligent plugin that automatically ignores all news that doesn't have proper vetted real sources, I'd install it in a second.

      You're setting a very high bar for intelligence here. Keep in mind that a system as intelligent as a human being would, by definition, frequently get taken in by misinformation, because that's what happens to even very intelligent human beings. So you're basically saying "if we had a system that was smarter than us, it would be smarter than us."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 17 May 2019 @ 10:14am

      Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

      So witnessing something in person and then blogging about it makes it "fake news" because there is nothing about it online to link to yet?

      Anonymous sources for news should not be allowed anymore?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 10:15am

      A whistleblower may rely on anonymity to protect themselves from blowback against the people/organization being exposed by the whistleblowing. Your proposition would render all such whistleblowing “fake news”, even if all the information exposed is factual.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 12:45pm

      Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

      If you can't name your sources, and link to them, it's fake news. Period.

      That would wipe out nearly everything Trump says, you recognize?

      Also, that suggests you have literally no experience in journalism at all. Confidential sources are kinda key for keeping government honest through whistleblowers. What you don't seem to understand is that good news sources involve vetting the information they get from sources, even if those sources are not revealed.

      The standard you set up here is not only impossible, it's illogical.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 3:57pm

        Re: Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

        probably because I can be kinda mean: I keep wanting to read Masnicks comment as "I didn't know thinking could be an alergine".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous, 18 May 2019 @ 4:02am

        Re: Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

        This would be for a court test within the law courts to figure out how much and if the fines levied were accurate and true and to what degree the named party is culpable in damages.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2019 @ 7:03pm

        Re: Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

        Also linking your source for information verified could become a copyright issue on the flipside if naming resources becomes a prerequisite for non fake news.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 3:18pm

      Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

      If you can't name your sources, and link to them,

      And how do they publish information for you to link to. Would the government grant itself first publication rights, and licence a few publishers as first publishers? That would give governments what they really want, control over published 'news'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2019 @ 9:25am

      Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

      If you can't name your sources, and link to them, it's fake news. Period.

      Do you have a source or a link to any substantiating data?
      Guess it's fake news then.

      You want to replace your own internal filter (your brain) with the choices made by others? Why would you do that?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2019 @ 7:12pm

        Re: Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

        Oh, maybe I could name my sources or even link to them, but because I had to dig and dig and dig and dig.. to get to the heart of the truth of the matter, maybe I choose to not offer them up for free. Go dig for yourself or don't believe what you read. I don't care. I'm not a journalist just because I write. I have no ulterior motive to hornswoggle. I am not a politician. I don't have to prove Jack. Go disprove what it may be or not be. Lets debate. But don't try to shut me down or out because of bias or preconceived predjudice.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2019 @ 6:10am

      Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

      You forgot to include a source for that definition of fake news.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2019 @ 6:51pm

      Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

      It could expressing your opinion will become fake news if tHEY get tHEIR way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2019 @ 6:55pm

        Re: Re: I'd Think Defining Fake News Should Be Very Easy

        NO ONE EXCEPT THE PRESS can or should be accused of publishing Fake News. Definitely not a planetful of overly opinionated schmucks.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 9:56am

    Well 99% of Canadian parliament will now eventually be banned sooner or later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 10:09am

      Re:

      Nah, just the opposing side, or those on the correct side who wander off the reservation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 10:31am

        Re: Re:

        “Just the opposing side”
        I did not say that SM did not have to be proactive in the bannings or what it considered “extreme”😈

        My my members of parliament you certainly have said ALOT of things open to interpretation now that I think of it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 10:06am

    Remember people "fake news" is just a buzzword for "A thing - either true or false - that the government or other people don't like people saying".

    If the Snowden leaks happened today, governments would be calling them fake news. If this law was in place they'd be demanding social media remove news and discussion of the leak or face fines.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 10:06am

    Remember the goal is to eleminate violent/terrorist content. NOT eleminate voilence/terrorism

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      That's a pretty extreme view of this proposed legislation. They want to kill any news they don't like, not just violent or terrorist news. Things like:

      • Trudeau Fellates Mexican President
      • Canadian Government Nosedives Into Fascism
      • Truth Proves Better Than Lies

      You get the picture.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 11:11am

    Perhaps the biggest misconception government officials hold about social media platforms is that moderation is easy.

    For many government officials, I'd agree with you. Trudeau, on the other hand, has had a strong social media presence for years, understands technology, and no doubt realizes the difficulties involved here.

    Which worries me. Because it means he has some ulterior motive for doing this. And normally he prefers to do things that may affect him personally in a negative manner if it will advance his politics and benefit his corporate supporters.

    So... what is the secondary reason at play here?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 17 May 2019 @ 11:24am

    I caught on the national news the announcement last night.
    The facial reactions of those near him were telling and mirrored my own as he spouted off.

    Was he bribed threatened or just enjoying another episode standard for beaurocrats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 12:50pm

    It seems obvious from the complete and utter lack of penalties for people who actually create and spread "fake news" that every single one of these efforts is at best nothing more than a cash grab. And I hope it's just that because the next couple most likely possibilities almost immediately degenerate to "we want to compete with China...."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 1:20pm

    If someone flags a government statement as fake news ...

    ... Twitter will have to remove it until the government can prove they are not lying?

    Interesting times ahead!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 1:58pm

      All animals are equal. Some animals however...

      Nice idea, but I can all but guarantee that if there's not explicit language making any statements made by a politician immune from the 'fake news' law, there will be epic tantrums should anyone have the utter audacity to actually apply it to them, such that companies will be strongly 'suggested' to give them a pass.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 4:32pm

        Re: All animals are equal. Some animals however...

        Twitter: now mr prime minister I do as I am told. Perhaps you would like to put your speech’s in a newspaper instead? I think they still read those?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 4:39pm

          Re: Re: All animals are equal. Some animals however...

          Twitter-Because remember it’s not your speech that you banned mr prime minister.
          It was what Was IN that speech.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Filipescu Mircea Alexandru, 17 May 2019 @ 1:24pm

    The Christchurch attack was created to destroy the internet!

    This is exactly why Christchurch happened: The open internet was the target!

    The attacker was put there by the globalist elite. He was instructed to commit mass murder AND stream it on Facebook! This was precisely so the free internet could be blamed and they could advance their agenda of thought control: His goal was to create a pretext people can't easily refuse. Governments are terrified of our ability to think freely and having no control over modern culture, they want the old days where every form of mass communication could be controlled. The end goal here is global dictatorship.

    How much longer until people start seeing those things? For how long are we going to keep playing their games? This is a carefully organized plan to turn the entire world into Communist China: Please wake up already!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 2:28pm

      Re: The Christchurch attack was created to destroy the internet!

      Holy crap, the poster boy for "Remember to Take Your Meds!" just crawled out of the woodwork.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 2:29pm

      Re: Definately user error

      Sorry sir. There seems to be an increasingly common problem where people who want WND.com and accidentally type in techdirt.com into their web browsers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 May 2019 @ 2:43pm

    'It is a sacrifice I am willing to (have them) make.'

    If the Canadian government can find a better approach to tackling "fake news" than perpetually fining social media companies, it probably should excuse itself from the discussion.

    Oh I dunno, from the perspective of someone in the government that sounds pretty damn good to me. A constant influx of free money as companies fail to do the impossible? It's like a whole new tax except there's no upper limit on either amount charged nor how many times you can charge them.

    Add the sleazy/easy PR for 'Doing Something' and the opportunity to rile up the gullible any time you want by pointing out that the tech companies can't comply and thus obviously don't really care about the problem, and from a political POV this is an absolute gold-mine of possibilities both currently and in the future.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2019 @ 5:08pm

    Hmmm.

    So basically they want to(or will) make any fiction (as in the genre of intertainment, not as in a tool for deception) that people not already knowedgeable of might mistake for true, illegal?

    So that seems to rule out basically any fantasy/sci-fi/modern day romance book that doesn't have cover art or an intro that explains that it's fiction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2019 @ 3:50pm

    There is a third option which is not called out. The platforms could decide not to operate in Canada. Faced with the prospect of random fines, it would not be out of the question.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 20 May 2019 @ 11:49am

    Real news versus conspiracy theory

    And how do you get out of the rabbit-hole of reporting where one person wants facts and the other person is so dug into conspiracy theories that they can't see a way out?
    It goes something like this:

    Person 1: Alex Jones says China is going to bomb us.
    Person 2: What?! There's no truth to that story.
    Person 1: That's what they want you to think.
    Person 2: Then cite one source that says it's true.
    Person 1: Get with it man, the government won't let people talk about this. That's why there are no stories about it.
    Person 2: So you don't have one source for this?
    Person 1: Wake up, people- the world is ending around you. (And by the way, please buy the products of the following sponsors of this show.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lucy (profile), 28 May 2019 @ 12:44am

    Why Customers Prefer Live Chat?

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    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lostinlodos (profile), 1 Jun 2019 @ 7:48pm

    Real fake

    If Canada was going to be as correct and accurate as Trump has been, I’d be somewhat interested. But I have a feeling they want to shut down real news and remove anything they don’t like; leaving ONLY fake news. Much how the progressive movement in the US continues to push the beyond debunked story of collusion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lucy (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 11:56pm

    Choosing the Best Live Chat Provider for Your Business Website

    In this article, we’ll help you in the decision-making process of choosing the best live chat provider for your business website.

    https://www.realinteract.com/choosing-the-best-live-chat-provider-for-your-business-website /

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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