Online harms: Liberals seek to create digital safety commission, new ombudsperson

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is planning to create a "digital safety commission of Canada" to regulate social media companies to take steps to reduce the risk of online harms to their users.

Justice Minister Arif Virani tabled the Online Harms Act today, and creating a new regulator is just one of the new measures being proposed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has long promised to better protect against online harms, but his ministers have repeatedly said developing such legislation was complicated.

Bill C-63 seeks to create a new regulator for social-media services and establish a new ombudsperson to advocate for users who have concerns about online safety.

The proposed law would require companies to make "inaccessible" intimate images shared without consent and content that "sexually victimizes a child."

The government is also amending the Criminal Code to introduce stiffer punishments for existing hate propaganda offences and amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include online hate speech as discrimination.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2024.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press