Trudeau warns companies of financial consequences for failing to counter disinformation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans for a new digital charter for Canadians on Thursday morning in Paris, in a speech that covered the public’s eroding trust in digital platforms, the dangers of online extremism and the threat of misinformation and foreign meddling interfering in this year’s federal elections.

He likened the current digital landscape to the “Wild West” and said that the livestreamed murder of 51 citizens in two mosques in New Zealand on March 15 was the “final straw.”

Thoughts and prayers in response to a tragedy must be complemented by more concrete action, he said.

In his speech, the prime minister also spoke about the need to fight misinformation in the lead up the federal elections this year.

“Canadians, and only Canadians, will choose their next government. We’ll make sure of that,” he said, pointing to the federal task force set up in February to mitigate foreign interference in the elections.

In his speech, the prime minister pointed the blame squarely at digital content providers for poorly policing online disinformation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Viva Technology conference in Paris on May 16 2019

Trudeau said that it is the joint responsibility of technology companies and governments to eliminate online extremism.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains will unveil the details of the charter, according to the prime minister, and will “outline a series of initiatives that will guide our data policy for the future.”

The charter also calls for online service providers to review the algorithms that drive users towards terrorist and extremist content and to commit to transparency and enforcement of community standards.