Statement - The Internet shouldn’t be a safe space for hate

April 27, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

In the wake of the shocking Toronto attack, Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, issues the following statement:

“Like all Canadians, everyone at the Canadian Human Rights Commission is grieving and grappling with the shocking attack on innocent pedestrians, men and women, in what appears to be in the name of misogyny. This hateful act of violence is too difficult to reconcile on the heels of this empowering year for women. Throughout 2017, people around the world joined together to protest misogyny and to stand up for women’s rights. We saw a groundswell of marches, protests, rallies and social media campaigns, all in the name of equality and empowerment for women. 

“These larger movements began at the grassroots level and spread like brushfire because of social media. We have seen the Internet evolve into a powerful force for good, for social change. It has brought people together from all over, from all walks of life, ages and backgrounds, in support of common causes. We live in an era where the time it takes to spark an entire movement is measured in hours, not weeks. A Twitter hashtag like #MeToo can inspire and unite people together at the click of a button.  

“And yet, we know that the Internet also gives a voice and safe space for hateful ideas—a place where hate and intolerance is not only accepted but encouraged. The attacker in Toronto likely felt included by an online community that reinforced his misogynistic views of the world, also at the click of a button. 

“The fact is, we all lose when hate goes unchallenged. It threatens our public safety, it threatens our democracy, it threatens our diversity. So what can we do about this? Why are we waiting for tragedies like this to happen before we act? Why are we letting hate speech go unchallenged?

“Canada needs reasonable protections that evolve at the same pace as our technology and social media. We need something constructive, proactive and effective to call out hate and disrupt groups of people that encourage and incite violent ideas. 

“This is about applying the same kind of standards to Internet as we do for all kinds of media broadcasting. Hate that incites violence that is shared by radio or television is simply not tolerated. So why is hate online given such freedom to spread?  The Internet has given all of us the power to broadcast our ideas publically. If we’re all now broadcasters, then why do we all not subscribe to the same standards as traditional broadcasters. 

“We spend a good part of our lives online now, and that’s not going to change. But what does need to change is that we must be just as accountable for our behaviour online as we are accountable for our behaviour IRL (“in real life”).”

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