Twitter Is Worried About Free Speech … In Canada
PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 07: In this photo illustration the Twitter logo is displayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a computer screen displaying a Twitter logo on February 07, 2019 in Paris, France. Twitter today posted better than expected Wall Street results over the last three months of 2018, with net profit up 28% and revenue up 4%, but the stock is falling. After losing 5 million monthly users by the end of 2018, the social network Twitter decided to stop giving figures. In its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2018, the company explains that this announcement will take effect in the second quarter of 2019.
Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images.

Following proposed legislation in Canada that would give the government greater oversight and control over content on social media, Twitter has expressed opposition to the bill due to its effect on “freedom of expression.”

In statements provided to the government, Twitter explained its objections to the proposal put forth by Liberals in parliament known as the online harms bill. 

According to The National Post, “The online harms bill would take aim at online posts in five categories — terrorist content, content that incites violence, hate speech, intimate images shared non-consensually, and child sexual exploitation content.”

Overseen by a new Digital Safety Commissioner of Canada, social media platforms would be required to take down posts that violate any of the content restrictions within 24 hours. 

Twitter claims the bill does not have “the most basic procedural fairness requirements you might expect from a government-run system such as notice and warning.”

Furthermore, the social media platform said the “requirement to ‘share’ information at the request of the Crown is also deeply troubling.”

Twitter, whose board is currently in a struggle with billionaire Elon Musk who wants to take control of the company, also expressed concern about the implications of free speech for the law. 

The social media giant said that the proposed law “sacrifices freedom of expression to the creation of a government run system of surveillance of anyone who uses Twitter” and warned that flagging and removing posts might be “used as a political tactic.”

Twitter, which barred the New York Post from its platform for several weeks prior to the 2020 U.S. presidential election after it published a story about Hunter Biden’s laptop, also noted that the new regulations could have an impact on federal elections.

“As lived during the recent Canadian federal election, a general approach to flagging will result in censorship,” Twitter noted, pointing to Canadian politicians pushing to have posts removed for misinformation during the election cycle. 

Regulating social media has become a major priority of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration, as it says it is important to ensure online safety for Canadians. An online resource from the government warns that social media platforms can be used to harm “social cohesion or democracy.” 

Other major companies, like Microsoft, also opposed the proposed law noting that it could impose too high of a burden on platforms to monitor and decide what content should be removed per the government’s standards. 

Microsoft claimed that the law could reverberate internationally if the legislation was implemented. The company said that “countries without strong democratic institutions” might point to Canada’s approach to justify crackdowns “on internet speech or other human rights.”

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