Expecting social media platforms to act

Backgrounder

Social media and digital platforms play a meaningful role in promoting a healthy democracy. They can provide a forum for sharing ideas, and enable Canadians to engage in a dialogue about important issues. However, these platforms can be manipulated to spread disinformation, create confusion, and exploit existing societal tensions. This can affect Canadians’ engagement and trust in the democratic process.

The Minister of Democratic Institutions has begun discussions with social media companies to secure action on their part to increase the transparency of political advertising, and to combat the manipulation of their platforms for anti-democratic purposes.

In May 2019, the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions, released a declaration that will guide social and digital platforms to ensure integrity, transparency and authenticity ahead of the 2019 federal election. The Canada Declaration on Electoral Integrity Online establishes a common understanding with the platforms about their responsibilities in the online democratic space.

In addition to securing public support from Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and Twitter, Minister Gould called upon all digital platforms operating in Canada to join and publically commit to meeting these expectations.

The Government expects these companies to take concrete actions to help safeguard this fall’s election by promoting transparency, authenticity, and integrity on their platforms.

The Government of Canada expects that social media companies will proactively apply the latest advancements and most effective tools from around the world. Canadians should not have to wait to benefit from new technologies and methods deployed in other countries. 

Under Bill-C76, the Election Modernization Act, digital platforms will be required to increase transparency with respect to advertising online. Canada became one of the first countries to require major online platforms to maintain a registry of partisan and election advertising published during the pre-election and election periods. The registry must include a copy of the advertising message, and the name of the person who authorized it. This complements the obligation on political parties and third parties to identify themselves on their partisan and election advertising during these periods. This represents an important step towards ensuring that Canadians have the tools to know who is trying to influence their vote.

The Government of Canada has a plan to protect our democratic processes and strengthen their defences. We have been watching and learning from the experience of others, doing our own research, and developing an approach tailored for Canada.


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