Web expands hate speech law: expert

A National Post article by Joseph Brean discusses a case before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal relating to online hate speech.

Whatever you think of the concept of "hate speech" (we don't all agree when we see it, so it is subjective), I am curious if people believe that operators of sites that allow other people to post should be held liable for posting? I feel that many of our laws, including defamation and hate speech laws, have not yet been updated for new-media. We need to ensure that it is the individual human that posted the material that is liable, not innocent third parties technology providers (called "enablers" by the legacy old-media copyright lobby).

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Kirk Makin for the Globe and Mail Update

Article: Hearing's decision could affect all media, lawyer argues

Every Internet message board in the country will have to shut down if an Ontario man – Marc Lemire – is found liable for vile comments that were posted on his website, a Canadian Human Rights tribunal was told yesterday.

Ironic how a "Human Rights tribunal" is the forum being abused to try to suppress one of our most important human rights: freedom of speech. The "unintended consequences" of a decision holding hosts responsible will go much further to harming human rights than the alleged "intended consequence" will benefit anyone.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.

Section 13, and additional commentary

Here is a link to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act if you have not yet ever looked at it.

An important clause is the last, which is intended to protect some third parties from liability

(3) For the purposes of this section, no owner or operator of a telecommunication undertaking communicates or causes to be communicated any matter described in subsection (1) by reason only that the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking owned or operated by that person are used by other persons for the transmission of that matter.

It should be obvious that this should include not holding the owners of an open forum liable for speech of individual users. It is obvious that such as provider should honour court orders to remove the speech (as long as those orders are accountable, and not secretive like the USA's security certificates), but holding providers of communications services liable is counter-productive to building a society where good speech among the public drowns out otherwise insignificant bad speech.

The following is the comment I added to the Globe and Mail article by Kirk Makin headlined Ruling reserved in case to strike down section of Human Rights Act .

I think this issue comes down to a question of trust of our citizenry. Much of the ill that has happened in the past is because citizens were either not informed, or they didn't care. To me it is a lack of good information, not an abundance of bad information, that has been the root of the problems. Making it harder to share good information by making intermediaries liable sounds like pavement to Auschwitz to me.

Those who believe in censorship are demonstrating a lack of trust in their fellow citizens -- a "father knows best" attitude offered toward people that are often far more experienced in the world than they are.

I find the tone of some of the articles and commentary on this topic disturbing. The presumption is that anyone who doesn't believe that censoring speech, and giving that speech more power, is somehow a social conservative racist. This is simply not the case, and there are many social liberals like myself (in a mixed marriage and believe many things the social conservatives hate) that believe that freedom of speech is critical. We need to drown out bad speech with more good speech, not try to make it harder for individuals to communicate with each other.

I wish the Canadian fight against hate speech was done by subsidizing authors of good speech, not through always-harmful censorship.

...They came for the hosts of online forums. And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a forum host.....

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.