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Canada’s Digital Charter to overhaul laws and address fake news

Canada has launched its new Digital Charter, designed to protect citizens and regulate social media platforms. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said the charter will target fake news and online hate speech, stating that platforms are failing users and Canadian citizens. “Platforms have to step up in a major way to counter disinformation and if they don’t we will hold them to account and there will meaningful financial consequences,” Trudeau said.

The charter is based on 10 principles:

    1. Universal Access
    2. Safety and Security
    3. Control and Consent
    4. Transparency, Portability and Interoperability
    5. Open and Modern Digital Government
    6. A Level Playing Field
    7. Data and Digital for Good
    8. Strong Democracy
    9. Free from Hate and Violent Extremism
    10. Strong Enforcement and Real Accountability

On agenda: Hate speech, penalties, amending the Privacy Act

Canada’s minister for innovation, science, and economic development Navdeep Bains launched the charter, which outlines what the government will do to address issues like universal access and online hate. The charter builds on the Christchurch Call to Action, which Canada also signed, and will ensure that Canadians “can trust new digital technologies and that their data and privacy will be safe”.

There are proposals to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which governs the use of data and personal information by private bodies. A discussion paper on the proposals suggests that information about how personal data will be processed should be available in plain language. It will also examine whether current rules governing the use of personal data are clear and enforceable. The government said it would simplify the structure and language of the Act to make it more accessible to consumers and small businesses.

Bains said there would be “clear, meaningful penalties for violations of the laws and regulations that support these principles”. He did not indicate how large the penalties could be, or whether they could reach the level of penalties levied by European countries on tech companies.

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