For almost 30 years, the World Wide Web has been open to the public, but with the advent of user-generated content in the early 2000s, the promise of a truly decentralized and unmoderated communications network appears to have been realized. For some time, though, it has been clear that Web 2.0 is a double-edged sword: the benefits of increased global connectivity, communication and economic growth are now being overshadowed by hate speech, bullying, disinformation, and other illegal or otherwise objectionable content.
As the shadowy side of the ungoverned Web takes hold, democratic governments are faced with the question of how to hold platforms accountable for their role in perpetuating these harms in a manner that respects and upholds free expression.
We live in a society where one in five young Canadians are, or have been, victims of cyberbullying and cyber harassment, and female politicians are being inundated with hateful and misogynistic attacks online. Who is responsible for managing this harmful content and mitigating risk in this new field of prevention? How is Canada positioned to protect its citizens without unduly compromising free expression?
On Sept. 21, 2020, the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Friends of Canadian Broadcasting co-hosted an interactive panel of platform governance experts and lawyers who shared their unique opinions and first-hand experiences with online harmful content, aiming to identify a balance between free speech and the rule of law in relation to harmful content online.