Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wants to "responsibilize" social media companies to protect citizens against "disinformation" online, saying that companies do not currently have to abide by policies paid by "taxes to keep you safe.”
As reported by outlet Reclaim the Net, the prime minister held a townhall in Canada's capital city of Ottawa recently to discuss online safety, misinformation, climate change, and more, taking audience questions over a period of about 120 minutes.
“Governments have very limited tools to protect people in an online world, which is a good thing. It allows for a tremendous amount of freedom – freedom of expression, freedom of discovery – no oppressive governments controlling what you see, what you want," Trudeau began.
"But it also opens us up to a tremendous amount of crap, of hate speech, of things that are illegal, but also things that are just going to bring us down roads where we're going to get lost,” he explained.
Trudeau described his own self-perceived disinformation journey, contemplating those who think the world is flat and ancient Greek philosophy:
“I remember a few years ago before the pandemic, getting really fascinated by flat-earthers, and trying to understand – sort of – the thinking behind them, of people who decided actively to create an identity for themselves that was to just clearly reject what science settled thousands of years ago with the ancient Greeks and that there's no real contrast to,” the Prime Minister described.
During his rant, Trudeau also suggested that no person or civilization in history ever thought the Earth may be flat as opposed to round:
"There wasn't really any moment back in recorded history... [when people] wondered whether the Earth was actually flat or not."
The Liberal Party leader then connected "flat-earthers" with "anti-vaxxers," describing the "phenomenon of anti-vaxxers and anti-science, anti-skeptics, and this rise in these echo chambers that are validating this kind of thinking in ways that have real consequences."
“There are people in Canada who died surrounded by their families because they truly and genuinely believed that the vaccine was more dangerous than the virus, and it killed them," Trudeau warned.
The prime minister then likened online regulation to keeping people safe, describing a type of online "police" before comparing it to regulations in consumer markets.
"I can't protect everyone from every bit of disinformation on the Internet. So we have to have reflections of how we move forward, how we responsibilize the companies that are controlling so much, the private companies that are controlling so much of the public square you now live in that doesn't have police paid by your taxes to keep you safe," Trudeau urged.
“It doesn't have rules around businesses to regulate so you don't get scammed by the corner store. This is the new world we're in that we're going to have to try and adjust to, and I can tell you, I'm worried about the direction we're going.”
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