OTTAWA — There is no magic legislative bullet to control objectionable content on social media, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says.
LeBlanc told a virtual conference on democracy Wednesday if there were a simple answer, many other western democracies would have already passed such laws. In general, LeBlanc said, he favours countering false information rather than restricting it.
The internet and social-media platforms must be a home for free speech, a critical part of any democracy, he said.
LeBlanc added that they should not be forums for hate speech, racism and disinformation.
“But at the end of the day, I don’t think citizens want governments to regulate content on the internet. That’s not at all appropriate,” he said.
“I’m not naive enough to think that there’s a simplistic answer or that some piece of legislation in this sphere is going to be a magic bullet.”
The minister was speaking at a session called “Making Technology Work for All People” at the DemocracyXChange Summit.
LeBlanc advocated educating online users, requiring social-media companies to be more transparent and publicly criticizing platforms when they fail to live up to commitments.
“Our approach has been to start with compulsory transparency,” LeBlanc said.
He pointed to a federal requirement that platforms keep a publicly accessible registry of political ads during both the electoral pre-writ and writ periods, so that Canadians can easily find out who is posting online ads.
“You can also name and shame platforms or other organizations that fail to take effective action, or fail to comply with commitments they have celebrated publicly,” LeBlanc said.
“I don’t think any large, global business wants to attach itself to very worthy objectives … and then be called out for having been completely lax or ineffective at trying to implement their own commitments.”
There are widespread concerns that everyone from hatemongers to conspiracy theorists has been able to spread dangerous messages through social media.
Facebook said this week it was updating its hate speech policy to prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.
“Organizations that study trends in hate speech are reporting increases in online attacks against many groups worldwide, and we continue our efforts to remove it,” Facebook said.
The social media giant said it had banned more than 250 white-supremacist organizations and updated its policies to address militia groups and QAnon conspiracy spreaders.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2020.
Global Environment Media (GEM) Announces the First-of-its-Kind Digital Media Network Dedicated to Positive Environmental Solutions – Canada NewsWire
MONACO and WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2020 /CNW/ — Nonprofit, civic and corporate leaders from around the world have come together to launch Global Environment Media (GEM), a content platform designed to educate, engage, and empower audiences to tell positive stories of progress about our planet. The announcement was made today by its distinguished co-founders surrounding the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. Press kit and Sizzle Video.
Seeing the need for positive solutions that address the current environmental crises, this founding team of Christian Moore, Vincent Roger, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Clemente, Elizabeth Kucinich, Marc Scarpa and Doug Scott joined forces to build a media company with the support of the non-profit organization, GEMA, that together will lead current and future generations to a healthier, more sustainable planet. The founders share a vision to curate, produce and distribute inspiring environmental stories with positive solutions.
Moore, the Managing Partner of GEM and president of the foundation, Global Environment Movement Association (GEMA) said, “GEM embodies that mindset that people must fall in love with the natural world first in order to then be engaged and excited enough to save it. This was why we launched GEM as the first-of-its kind media network.”
Added Roger, the Managing Partner GEM, and treasurer of GEMA, “We believe in positivity and wanted to create a destination where people can explore stories of innovators who are impacting the world. We know that governments can only go so far and together with GEM, individuals, businesses and NGOs, can take action and catalyze the change needed to heal our planet.”
GEM-TV.com will be divided into four primary sections: 1) Live TV, 2)Topics – an expansive VOD library – “solution-oriented” videos covering nine environmental topics: Energy, Climate Change, People on Earth, Forests, The Ocean, Biodiversity, Food, Sustainable Living and Water 3) Research – an education section rich with infographics, academic papers, a portal to global environmental courses and 4) Kids – a special learning section for kids.
With its powerful mission, GEM has already partnered with 50 institutions, foundations, NGOs, and nearly 40 global advisory members. To read the full list go here.
GEM is proud to have the support of Hamid Guedroudj, social and environmental philanthropist.
For more information, please visit Gem-TV.com.
Follow on Social: @TheGEMPlatform
Liz Stein, Communications Director
SOURCE Global Environment Media
For further information: +1.240.461.3053, https://gem-tv.com/
Nunavut MLA ousted from cabinet after social media post criticizing Black women for abortions – CBC.ca
Nunavut MLA Patterk Netser has been removed from cabinet after a 14-3 vote by his fellow MLAs in the legislature on Friday morning.
“I sometimes have to make difficult decisions in the best interest of our territory. This is one of those times. There can be no tolerance for disrespectful hurtful actions,” said Premier Joe Savikataaq.
Savikataaq introduced a motion on Wednesday — the first day of the fall sitting — to remove Netser from the executive council. Savikataaq accused Netser of making comments “based in racism and gender violence.”
Netser’s demotion follows a recent Facebook post in which the MLA criticized Black women for having abortions. In the same post, Netser also stated “all lives matter,” a phrase largely seen as a criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement because it discounts the disproportionate racism that Black people face.
Two weeks ago, the premier stripped Netser of his ministerial portfolios. The Aivilik MLA was minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation and the Nunavut Arctic College.
In a statement on Friday morning in the legislature, Netser denied the premier’s claim that his words were racist or gender violent.
“I never raised any issues on ethnic groups. I spoke out about unborn babies that have been aborted,” he said, in his response to the motion.
“My reference to ‘all lives matter’ was not stated in that context and I would not have used those words if I knew they could be used to negate the struggles of my Black brothers and sisters,” he said.
‘We cannot say whatever we want’
Iqaluit Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone seconded the motion to oust Netser.
MLAs Tony Akoak, Emiliano Qirngnuq and Netser opposed. MLA David Qamaniq abstained from voting while three others, Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik, MLAs Cathy Towtongie and Margaret Nakashuk were not present in the house for the vote.
Qirngnuq said he was uncomfortable with the motion because the statements by Netser were made outside of the assembly. He asked for deep reflection on the severity of government reaction.
Jeannie Ehaloak, minister of Justice and responsible for Human Rights Tribunal, supported the vote to oust Netser from cabinet.
“We can believe whatever we want to. But we cannot say whatever we want when those statements have a negative impact on the rights and dignity of others,” Ehaloak said.
“This is particularly true for those of us in office.”
Doing so puts the credibility of government at risk, she added.
“We have a code of conduct, when you’re elected to MLA you are held to a higher standard than the general public. When you’re elected to the executive council you are held to an even higher level, you are speaking on behalf of the government,” premier Savikataaq said to media following the vote.
Savikataaq said Wednesday that he expected MLAs to support his motion to take the next step and remove Netser from cabinet. The premier wanted MLAs to vote on his motion on Wednesday, but Netser voted to delay it until Friday.
The ousted minister also spoke out on Wednesday, making no apologies for his social media posts. In a member’s statement, he said he was being punished “because of my Christian principles and values.”
Now out of cabinet, Netser told reporters on Friday that he will continue as an MLA.
To his constituents he said, “This is what happened, we can’t do anything about it, we will be OK.”
The cabinet vacancy has triggered a leadership forum to be held to elect another MLA to fill the spot. The date for the forum has yet to be determined.
To Recognize Misinformation in Media, Teach a Generation While It’s Young – The New York Times
The Instagram post looked strange to Amulya Panakam, a 16-year-old high school student who lives near Atlanta. In February, a friend showed her a sensational headline on her phone that declared, “Kim Jong Un is personally killing soldiers who have Covid-19!” Of course, the news wasn’t real. “I was immediately suspicious,” Ms. Panakam said. She searched online and found no media outlets reporting the fake story. But her friends had already shared it on social media.
Ms. Panakam was startled by how often students “grossly handle and spread misinformation without knowing it,” she said. Yet media literacy is not part of her school’s curriculum.
So Ms. Panakam contacted Media Literacy Now, a nonprofit organization based near Boston that works to spread media literacy education. With its help, she wrote to her state and local representatives to discuss introducing media literacy in schools.
The subject was hardly new. Well before the internet, many scholars analyzed media influence on society. In recent decades, colleges have offered media studies to examine advertising, propaganda, biases, how people are portrayed in films and more.
But in a digital age, media literacy also includes understanding how websites profit from fictional news, how algorithms and bots work, and how to scrutinize suspicious websites that mimic real news outlets.
Now, during the global Covid-19 crisis, identifying reliable health information can be a matter of life or death. And as racial tensions run high in America, hostile actors can harness social media to sow discord and spread disinformation and false voting information, as they did in the 2016 elections and may well be repeating in the current elections.
Indeed, Facebook and Twitter recently shut down fake accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, backed by Russia. Twitter said this month that it suspended nearly 1,600 accounts, including some in Iran that “amplified conversations on politically sensitive topics” like race and social justice.
Online misinformation might seem like an incurable virus, but social media companies, policymakers and nonprofits are beginning to address the problem more directly. In March, big internet companies like Facebook and Twitter started removing misleading Covid-19 posts. And many policymakers are pushing for tighter regulations about harmful content.
What still needs more attention, however, is more and earlier education. Teaching media literacy skills to teenagers and younger students can protect readers and listeners from misinformation, just as teaching good hygiene reduces disease.
A RAND report last year said research showed signs that media literacy increases “resiliency to disinformation.”
Erin McNeill, the founder of Media Literacy Now, grew concerned when her young sons were exposed to sexist female stereotypes on television and in video games. She raised the issue to her son’s fifth grade teacher, who voluntarily created a media literacy unit that included analyzing those messages.
Going further, she said, “we need policy so it’s embedded in the education system,” and in 2011 she wrote to Massachusetts politicians and eventually got support from some, notably a state senator, Katherine Clark, who is now a representative in Congress.
Two years later Ms. McNeill founded Media Literacy Now, to help people in other states lobby policymakers. The organization’s online tool kit included templates for emailing to elected officials, alongside samples of policy documents, research papers and videos. Changes were already happening before Media Literacy Now was founded. Since 2008, 14 states have passed legislation supporting some form of media literacy in schools, potentially affecting tens of millions of students.
And media literacy is getting more support. Last year, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, introduced a bill calling for $20 million to fund media literacy education.
While that federal bill has little chance of passing, momentum has grown at the state level, and 15 states were considering media literacy bills this year. Media Literacy Now has influenced nearly 30 bills in 18 states since its founding.
In Connecticut, for example, it guided a group of African-American social workers who had founded a company named Welcome 2 Reality to seek new state laws that passed in 2015 and 2017. The state now requires schools to teach safe use of social media and also formed an advisory council on media literacy education that is drafting a baseline report.
Marcus Stallworth, a founder of the social workers’ group who has taught an elective titled “Social Media: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly” at the University of Bridgeport, saw how deeply media affected students. “Social media — anyone can say anything,” he tells them. He also asks them to consider who is disseminating information and what their intent might be. For example, are posts coming from an official source like the governor, or from a potential scammer?
After connecting with Media Literacy Now, the social workers realized that state education policies could have wider impact. Qur-an Webb, a member of Welcome 2 Reality who saw that ordinary citizens could influence lawmakers, concluded that “these are people we vote for — they should meet with us.”
There is no silver bullet for disarming misinformation. But states’ media literacy education policies typically include first steps, like creating expert committees to advise education departments or develop media literacy standards. Next come recommending curriculums, training educators, funding school media centers and specialists, monitoring and evaluation.
States set guidelines for education departments, although local districts often have final control of curriculums.
Even without legislation, teachers can incorporate media literacy concepts into existing classes or offer electives. At Andover High School in Massachusetts, Mary Robb has taught the subject for 19 years. As part of Media Literacy Now’s advocacy, she and her students testified at a Massachusetts State House hearing in 2013.
Ms. Robb now includes media literacy in civics classes, where students might analyze war propaganda and assess the credibility of websites. “‘Fake news’ is not news that you disagree with,” she emphasized.
At Swampscott High School in Massachusetts, Tom Reid has taught media literacy for 15 years and testified at the State House. He pointed out that lessons should focus on critical thinking, rather than being “too focused on simply trying to get students to reduce their screen time.”
Teaching resources already exist. News Literacy Project, for example, has a free 13-lesson online curriculum. Its lessons also cover topics like “deep fake” videos and the role of journalism in a democracy.
Other resources include Ground News, which compares reportage; Adfontes Media, which assesses the reliability of news sources; and Media Education Foundation, which makes documentaries about media’s impact.
Establishing policies is one important step, but Media Literacy Now does not track how they are carried out. “Just passing one bill does not necessarily mean the lessons are being taught,” Ms. McNeill said. “Advocacy still needs to be done.”
Many young people say media literacy is invaluable. Mr. Stallworth’s students said they wished they had learned about the subject earlier.
“Why are we waiting until they get to college?” Mr. Stallworth asked. “It makes more sense to introduce them much earlier.”
Ms. Yee is a journalist who has written about solutions to social problems in the United States, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe.
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