June 22nd, 2024

Justice minister says Online Harms Act leaves room for age-appropriate design options

By The Canadian Press on May 29, 2024.

Justice minister Arif Virani speaks during a press conference in Brampton, Ont., Monday, May 20, 2024. Arif Virani says the proposed provisions in the government's online harms bill "can mean different things" when it comes to compelling companies to include age appropriate design features. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

OTTAWA – The federal justice minister says the government’s online harms bill includes measures to protect children using age-appropriate web design.

His comment comes as legislators study a Senate bill that seeks to require websites to verify users’ ages and keep minors from accessing “sexually explicit material.”

Privacy experts have criticized the proposed legislation for posing a risk to Canadians’ personal information, which they would have to provide to access material like pornography.

Others, including the federal privacy commissioner, have called for the bill’s scope to be narrowed to focus on sites whose main purpose is to provide “sexually explicit material” for commercial reasons.

Virani says he believes asking Canadians to upload a piece of government identification could expose users to the risk of a “host of economic and fraudulent crimes.”

He says his online harms bill, tabled in February, contains a provision requiring companies to protect children through age-appropriate design features, which he says “can mean different things.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2024.

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