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Tackling Online Hate and Antisemitism: B’nai Brith Urges Government Action

September 10, 2020

B’nai Brith Canada

OTTAWA – B’nai Brith Canada is pushing for forthright action by the Government of Canada to confront online hate and antisemitism.

Recommendations on a mix of policy and legal remedies were presented during September 4 consultations between B’nai Brith Canada and Canadian officials including MP Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada.

In responding to a Department of Justice consultation paper, B’nai Brith representatives made clear the steps that must be taken to address online hate and options for government action, including:

  • The need to focus on hate content, before it transforms into terrorist and violent extremist material; how online hate, countered at an early stage, can help forestall radicalization to violence.
  • Having the Canadian Human Rights Commission develop a trusted flagger system with major internet providers to facilitate the rapid takedown of hate content online.
  • Developing a clear, effective Code of Practice for Providers of Online Social Media Platforms, with actions that social media platforms should take to prevent bullying, insulting, intimidating and humiliating behaviours on their sites.
  • Shifting the onus for action from providers to an expert, government-appointed body, or an independent regulator that has no financial interest in maximizing traffic on any particular channel.
  • Considering creation of a forum similar to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, to convene social media companies, civil society, and other stakeholders – in this case, representatives of the Jewish community – to develop and implement codes of conduct to address harmful speech.
  • Reviving the spirit of the previous Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act to have a civil tool to combat online hate speech, avoiding an undue limitation on freedom of expression, where easy access could lead to the harassment of legitimate expression.
  • Ratifying the 2002 Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime (concerning the criminalization of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems).
  • Encouraging enhanced industry support for counter speech initiatives, including fostering, aggregating and promoting positive messages responding to offensive content.
  • Applying existing resources available under Canada’s Digital Charter and Anti-Racism Strategy to promote greater awareness of the dangers of online antisemitism and how to counter them.

“Online hate, particularly of an antisemitic nature, has become more prevalent in Canada,” said Ran Ukashi, Director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights. “The latest data from our annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents illustrates this.”

“In order to comprehend incitement to hatred, it is important to have clear working definitions; this is why B’nai Brith Canada supports the more widespread adoption and implementation of the definition of antisemitism used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA),” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “IHRA can help inform existing and new laws intended to address the phenomenon of hatred online.”

“We welcome this latest opportunity for dialogue” said Brian Herman, B’nai Brith Canada’s Director of Government Relations. “There is a range of specific policy and legal steps the Government, working with all Canadians, can take now to address online hate. We are pleased that there is recognition of the need to involve several Ministers – from Justice, to Public Safety, to Heritage, to Diversity, Inclusion and Youth.”

B’nai Brith’s policy overview for its consultations with the Department of Justice is found here.