OTTAWA (Diya TV) — Canada’s Justice Minister Arif Virani unveiled the Online Harms Bill, aiming to address various online threats including hate speech and child exploitation. The bill imposes stringent regulations on major online platforms, requiring them to swiftly remove harmful content or face hefty fines. However, the announcement was met with opposition and skepticism, particularly from Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, who criticized the bill before fully reviewing its contents.

Virani emphasized the bill’s focus on protecting children and combating egregious online content during its announcement. He highlighted three main obligations for major online platforms: safeguarding children, responsible conduct, and removal of harmful content. Specifically, the bill targets content such as child sexual abuse, non-consensual intimate images, violence incitement, extremism, and cyberbullying.

The minister clarified that the bill does not infringe upon freedom of speech, seeking to address concerns raised by critics like Poilievre. The Conservative leader preemptively denounced the legislation as part of a “woke authoritarian agenda” without fully understanding its provisions.

Critics have raised concerns about the scope and implications of the bill, particularly regarding increased penalties for hate crimes and online propaganda. Despite assurances from Virani regarding judicial discretion, legal experts and civil society groups remain wary of potential infringements on freedom of expression.

The Online Harms Bill also proposes the establishment of a new regulator to oversee compliance and enforcement. While some welcome these measures as necessary for protecting vulnerable users, others worry about bureaucratic overreach and potential limitations on online discourse.

The introduction of the bill comes amidst a broader global trend of governments seeking to regulate online platforms and combat digital harms. Similar legislation has been proposed or enacted in other countries, reflecting growing concerns about the spread of harmful content and online radicalization.

As the bill progresses through parliamentary review, stakeholders will continue to scrutinize its details and implications. The debate surrounding online regulation and freedom of expression is likely to intensify, with divergent perspectives shaping the final outcome of the legislation.