OTTAWA — An expert panel tasked with helping to shape a federal bill to curb online hate suggests it cover Airbnb, the vacation rental booking site, as well as video games and even private communications online.
The advisory panel believes a future online hate law should have a broad scope covering not just Twitter and Facebook but smaller online platforms, including crowdfunding apps, according to reports of their discussions posted online.
Many experts on the panel also supported bringing private online conversations “under the scope of the legislative framework.”
The Liberal government has said it wants to bring in an online hate bill so that harmful content, such as racist and antisemitic abuse online, is swiftly removed by platforms.
Earlier this year, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez appointed the expert advisory group on online safety to provide counsel on a framework for such a law.
In discussion papers for the group, the Heritage Department indicated it is not inclined to regulate services such as Uber, Airbnb and Peloton. The department suggested they be “excluded … as their primary purpose is not to enable communication between persons per se, but to arrange transportation, or rent accommodations, or participate in fitness classes.”
Many experts on the panel suggested a wider reach, however, and wanted to “incorporate all entities that communicate online.” Some said there is “justification to look more widely” including “some interactive services like Airbnb and gaming platforms,” records of their meetings show.
A few expert advisers added that “it would be hard to assert generalized obligations to act responsibly on some platforms (e.g., social media companies) but not others who operate on the same level of the tech stack (e.g., Airbnb, video-gaming platforms).”
The report of their meetings said some panel members thought “a broad definition would help address evolving/emerging technologies to help future-proof the legislation.”
It said members “highlighted that a lot of times a high level of harmful content, such as terrorist content or child pornography are shared in private communications instead of on public forums — and that excluding these types of communications would leave a lot of harmful content on the table.”
Airbnb, based in San Francisco, said communications on its platform are between people booking lodgings and landlords, such as asking questions about whether dogs are allowed.
It said it has an extensive and strict anti-discrimination policy and delists people who do not adhere to it, as well as those linked to extremist groups.
A spokesman for Airbnb said the site has banned the accounts of dozens of users with links to white nationalist groups, including those identified as members of Iron March, a neo-Nazi forum, following disclosure of the forum’s membership.
“Discrimination of any kind — including bias, prejudice and racism — have no place on our platform or in our community in Canada and around the world, and we have strong policies in place on these issues that align with our inclusive values,” said Nathan Rotman, of Airbnb Canada.
“According to the government, this bill is meant to regulate social media platforms, not platforms like Airbnb.”
In the United States, Harvard Business School researchers exploring racial discrimination at Airbnb found that applications from guests with distinctly African-American names were about 16 per cent less likely to be accepted than guests with distinctly white names.
Bernie Farber, who is chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and a member of the 12-person panel, said Airbnb should fall within the scope of the regulations aimed at curbing online hate, because discussions take place on its platform.
The government also asked its advisory panel to consider how deep the law should go.
“Should top layer interactive services that are not social media platforms — like, video-gaming platforms and streamers, or crowdfunding platforms — also be included?” said government papers giving topics for their deliberations.
Some panel members said a broader scope would include entities that are successful in the recruitment of violent extremists who adapt quickly “and have been moving to video game services, file sharing sites, and live audio applications.”
Laura Scaffidi, a spokeswoman for Rodriguez, said “the expert advisory group on online safety is mandated to provide the government with advice on how to address harmful content online” and noted the 12 people on the panel have a “broad range” of views and experience.
“We look forward to the group’s continued work and final summary,” she added.
“We are going to take the time we need to get this right.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2022.
Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press
India tells Canada to remove 41 of its 62 diplomats: official
Canada needs diplomats in India to help navigate the “extremely challenging” tensions between the two countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in response to demands that Ottawa repatriate dozens of its envoys.
India reportedly wants 41 of 62 Canadian diplomats out of the country by early next week — a striking, if largely anticipated, deepening of the rift that erupted last month following Trudeau’s explosive allegations in the House of Commons.
The prime minister bluntly spoke of “credible” intelligence linking the Indian government to the shooting death in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh leader India has long assailed as a terrorist.
The demand, first reported by the Financial Times, comes less than two weeks after the Indian government first called on Canada to establish “parity in strength and rank equivalence in our diplomatic presence.”
Canada has a much larger diplomatic corps in India, owing in part to the fact it’s a country of 1.4 billion people, compared to 40 million in Canada — about 1.3 million of whom are of Indian origin.
Trudeau would not confirm the reports Tuesday, nor did he sound inclined to acquiesce to India’s request.
“Obviously, we’re going through an extremely challenging time with India right now,” Trudeau said on his way to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to have diplomats on the ground, working with the Indian government, there to support Canadians and Canadian families.”
Canada, he continued, is “taking this extremely seriously, but we’re going to continue to engage responsibly and constructively with the government of India.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said largely the same thing.
“In moments of tension, because indeed there are tensions between both our governments, more than ever it’s important that diplomats be on the ground,” Joly said.
“That’s why we believe in the importance of having a strong diplomatic footprint in India. That being said, we are in ongoing conversations with the Indian government.”
During Tuesday’s daily briefing at the State Department, deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel was at pains to avoid exacerbating tensions any further.
“We are — and continue to be — deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau and we remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners,” Patel said, a message the U.S. has had on repeat for weeks.
“It’s critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice. We also have … publicly and privately urged the Indian government to co-operate in the Canadian investigation and co-operate in those efforts.”
Patel also demurred on the potential impact of an escalating tit-for-tat exchange of diplomatic staff on the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, a key element of U.S. efforts to mitigate China’s growing geopolitical influence.
“I certainly don’t want to get into hypotheticals,” he said. “As it relates to our Indo-Pacific strategy and the focus that we continue to place on the region, that effort and that line of work is going to continue.”
David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has already confirmed that the allegations were buttressed in part on intelligence gathered by a key ally from the Five Eyes security alliance, which includes the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, along with Canada.
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, confirmed last week that the subject came up in his meetings in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser.
Trudeau’s allegation “was not consistent with our policy,” Jaishankar told a panel discussion Friday hosted by the Hudson Institute.
“If his government had anything relevant and specific they would like us to look into, we were open to looking at it. That’s where that conversation is at this point of time.”
Jaishankar went on to note that the issue of Sikh separatists living in Canada had long been “an issue of great friction,” notably after the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history.
“In the last few years, it has come back very much into play, because of what we consider to be a very permissive Canadian attitude towards terrorists, extremists, people who openly advocate violence,” Jaishankar said.
“They have been given operating space in Canada because of the compulsions of Canadian politics.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.
With files from Mickey Djuric in Ottawa.
In the news today: Regimental funeral today for B.C. Mountie, NDP victory in Manitoba – National Post
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All Flesh Redux
Director’s Notes, Stacey Christodoulou
MONTREAL October, 2023 – Combining polyphonic singing, dance, and theatre, All Flesh REDUX is a poetic journey through time and space. Part sing-a-long, Dadaist performance piece as well as a love letter to our planet, the work enfolds the public in an intimate theatre-in-the-round setting where humour, music, storytelling and movement reign. Bringing together the worlds of medieval composers Guillaume de Machaut, Hildegard von Bingen and modern composer John Cage, the company’s creation contemplates the unknowable past and the unimaginable future, and asks what acts of faith are possible in an uncertain world. October 13-22, seating is limited.
Director Stacey Christodoulou: “We could never imagine that the themes we spoke about in 2019 would become reality. In a certain way the show was prophetic. However, I believe that the message of creating beauty as a form of resistance is even more important now. The weaving of medieval song, contemporary dance and text continues our company’s interdisciplinary approach and reminds us that throughout history people have responded to turmoil with innovation and art.”
With: ENSEMBLE ALKEMIA (Jean-François Daignault, Dorothéa Ventura and Leah Weitzner), Stéphanie Fromentin, Erin Lindsay, Vanessa Schmit-Craan, Lael Stellick
Musical direction by Jean-François Daignault; scenograpy by Amy Keith; sound by Debbie Doe; costumes by Cathia Pagotto; lighting by David Perreault Ninacs and technical stage coordination by Birdie Gregor.
All Flesh REDUX
Studio Jean Valcourt du Conservatoire
4750, avenue Henri-Julien
Dates: Friday, Oct., 13, Saturday, Oct. 14 at 8pm; Sunday Oct. 14 at 3pm
Wednesday, October 18-Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8pm; Sunday, Oct. 22 at 3pm
Tickets/514 873-4032: $20, Students/Seniors: $15
Seating is limited
About THE OTHER THEATRE
Formed in 1991 by Artistic Director Stacey Christodoulou, The Other Theatre is devoted to contemporary creation. Working bilingually, their award-wining work has included adaptations, installations, theatre texts, and collectively written material performed in numerous venues in Montreal and abroad, including theatres, galleries, as well as a moving elevator.
Drawing inspiration from art forms other than theatre – dance, cinema, science, architecture, and the visual arts – the company presents evocative performances, grounded by thought-provoking texts. From a creole Macbeth, to sci-fi with polyphonic singing, to the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, their original creations are thrilling and visually striking. They have also presented the work of International and Canadian writers, giving them their French-language premieres in Quebec. Exploring the large existential issues of the time, The Other Theatre aims to move audiences to greater emotional connection and reflection, bridging communities and languages to create a hybrid theatre that is reflective of the cultural richness of Montreal. They value and foster artistic exchange, both locally and internationally and share their artistic process in Canada, the US, Europe and Mexico, through mentorships, workshops and cultural mediation in local communities and schools.
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