October 4, 2021
The CBC and five other subsidized press groups are out to stop hurtful comments made online.
Blacklock’s Reporter said the group will “advocate for initiatives to reduce if not prevent online harm,” according to a network statement.
The advocacy comes ahead of Internet censorship bills by Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, including a proposal to block websites and appoint a chief censor called the Digital Safety Commissioner.
“We think industry-wide data will help us to advocate for initiatives to reduce if not prevent online harm,” Claude Galipeau, CBC executive vice-president, wrote in a statement.
CBC said it was commissioning a complaint-driven survey to document allegations of hurtful internet content.
“At the moment there is little Canadian data on the problem,” wrote Galipeau.
Questions included: “How often have you experienced any of the following as a result of the work you do in the field of journalism or media: threats or harassment online (social media, emails, websites etcetera); threats of harassment by phone; threats of harassment in person; physically attacked.”
The survey also asked: “Do you feel the frequency of harassment has changed over the past two years?” and “Who should be held responsible for protecting journalists from online harm: social media platforms; employers; journalism associations; government.”
Guilbeault’s department in a July 29 Technical Paper and Discussion Guide proposed to appoint a federal internet censor to curb legal, but hurtful comments deemed a threat to “democratic institutions.”
The digital safety commissioner would have sweeping powers to issue compliance orders for “content moderation” at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other service providers under the threat of $25 million fines.
Anonymous complainants could trigger an investigation over websites deemed to “distort the free exchange of ideas by discrediting or silencing targeted voices” or “threaten national security, the rule of law and democratic institutions,” wrote staff.
The safety commissioner would be empowered to block websites or “make the content inaccessible” in Canada.
Shaun Poulter, CBC executive director of public affairs, denied the “advocacy” survey was coordinated with Guilbeault’s department.
“There are a lot of anecdotal examples of some pretty disturbing online harassment against journalists and media professionals, but no comprehensive data on the scope of the problem in Canada,” said Poulter.
“The goal of this survey is to gather data to help us all better understand this problem.”