My colleague went over the first two action points that we believe the Government of Canada can take by introducing regulations for social media companies and legislation to regulate those who are spreading online hate. I will cover the third point, which is that we believe that victims of online hate need to be more educated so that they know what to do when they are faced with it.
We grew up with teachers telling us how to respond to bullying on the playground. That's not really effective for the online world. They taught us that sticks and stones can break your bones, but words don't really hurt you. Unfortunately, in today's world, we learn that words can not only hurt you psychologically but can also lead to criminal activity and even terrorism.
I want you to think about the last time you tried to report an online hateful comment. Assuming that the process for reporting the post was user-friendly and noticeable—that is, you actually saw the button that says “report”—where did it lead? Did you have to personally follow up and check to see if it was taken down? How many times? Did you have to forward it to your friends and convince them to also try to report it? How many of us continue to experience and see online hate, despite the continued reports?
We have a couple of recommendations for the government to enforce so that social media companies will better create mechanisms for us to be able to help them regulate the content.
The first is to make it easier to report hateful content. Currently, for example, Facebook doesn't have a “report” button; it has a “give feedback” button. It's not as visible.
Second, hasten the time between the reporting of a post and its examination. As we know, time moves much faster in the virtual space than it does off-line. These processes should be receptive to that.
Third, social media companies should provide the person who reported the harm with an update and provide them with information about other resources, including law enforcement, and such resources as the human rights commission.
Fourth, social media companies should examine software and other algorithms that direct users to violent content and share that with government authorities so that the government can also help find and eliminate violent extremist material.
Finally, social media companies should produce tools that help us, and help users, differentiate between credible information and fake news.
As we have been talking about, there are two kinds of content online that can lead to a lot of violence. One is actual hate and the other is misinformation. We believe the Government of Canada can support and fund community initiatives of digital media literacy to help youth and adults alike be able to differentiate between misinformation and credible information as a method of responding to hate. There is a variety of programming that successfully teaches both generations how to differentiate between real and fake news, making them less susceptible to being influenced by hateful messages. This is essential, given the industry of hate and fake news. Moreover, teaching media literacy skills empowers youth to control their own narrative of their identity and to respond to the negative messages with positive ones.
In conclusion, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, freedom of speech is not advocating murder, and it's also not spreading false or hateful content. We thank the Government of Canada for considering the important consequences of online hate and applaud the right honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for signing the Christchurch call in Paris recently, where he took the effort to tackle this issue of violent online content. However, there is more to be done.
To summarize, we urge the government to combat online hate in three ways: first, by setting strict standards and guidelines for social media companies to regulate their content; second, by more readily enforcing hate speech legislation, be it online or off-line; and last, by increasing the public's awareness about how to report and respond to online hate.
Thank you for your time and consideration.