April 24th, 2024

Liberals to introduce online harms bill, which Amanda Todd’s mother urges MPs to pass

By Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press on February 26, 2024.

The federal government is expected to introduce legislation against online harms on Monday. A man uses a computer keyboard in Toronto in a Sunday, Oct. 9 photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

OTTAWA – The mother of a British Columbia teen who died by suicide after being targeted by online sextortion is pleading with federal lawmakers to pass a bill being tabled in Parliament today.

Carol Todd, whose daughter Amanda posted a video on YouTube detailing her ordeal before she died in 2012, says she worries that opposition parties will vote against the bill and wants them to communicate.

Justice Minister Arif Virani is set to table the Liberals’ long-promised legislation on online harms today, which is expected to focus on protecting youth.

The bill is expected to pave the way for a new ombudsperson to field public concerns about online content and a new regulatory role that would oversee the conduct of internet platforms.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week the upcoming bill will focus on making the internet safer for minors, while not censoring it for the rest of Canadians.

Trudeau had promised to bring forward the legislation within 100 days of winning the 2021 federal election, but failed to do so.

That year, the government released a consultation paper outlining the types of content it wanted to tackle, which experts roundly criticized for being overly broad.

They also said the government would risk violating the right to free expression because of a provision that would have given companies just 24 hours to remove material flagged as harmful.

A senior government source said last week the forthcoming bill proposes “two very narrow instances of a takedown” of online material: images of child sexual abuse and the non-consensual sharing of images.

The source, who had seen a draft of the legislation, spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details that have yet to be made public.

Virani has said the government wants to target what is considered the most seriously harmful content online, which includes the sexual exploitation of children and content that incites violence and promotes hatred or violent extremism.

Todd said in an interview Monday that it is frustrating not to have seen federal legislation guarding against online sextortion and cyberbullying earlier

But she said: “Sometimes you have to wait for something good.”

She pointed to how similar laws already exist in the European Union, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Canada cannot afford to wait for such legislation, which may save many lives from the increased prevalence of cyberbullying and sextortion, Todd said.

“It’s the lives of our kids,” she said.

“I’m talking about everyday life, and just something that happens online – that can happen in a split second – can make a young person spiral so deeply.”

She said she is hopeful that the legislation becomes another part of Amanda’s legacy. Her YouTube video helped many parents and youth to have important conversations about protecting themselves in an online setting, she said.

“Amanda’s legacy continues to live on, and I think that it’s a teaching experience for all of us,” added Todd.

“And if she were watching from wherever, she would be proud of that.”

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has called on Trudeau for weeks to introduce the long-awaited bill.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has signalled opposition to online harms legislation, saying he believes Trudeau is going to target online speech.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2024.

– With files from Chuck Chiang in Vancouver.

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