Federal government targets “harmful” online disinformation

The Government of Canada is strengthening its digital citizenship initiative to counter “harmful” disinformation, “misleading” information, and propaganda circulating online.

As part of this initiative, launched in 2019, an additional $2.5 million will be used by Canadian Heritage to fund activities, workshops and projects by organizations and academics already working in the area that will, it said, “help people identify misinformation and disinformation”, for example by “building partnerships to support a healthy digital information society”.

“Every day, opinions are manipulated and division is incited through the spread of deliberate disinformation online”, said the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities, in a press release. “Canada takes this very seriously. We know an engaged and informed public is the best line of defence in our efforts to fight disinformation and protect our democracy.”

As a result, Canadian Heritage said, we need to do more to counter the growing spread of harmful misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation and disinformation can be distinguished on the basis of the intention of the sender or transmitter of the information, and on the basis of their knowledge or not of the falseness of the information (re)transmitted.

Call for critical thinking

Funded through the government’s Digital Citizen Initiative (DCI), projects will contribute to promoting critical thinking when it comes to validating sources of information, and to helping Canadians become more aware and resilient and to think more critically about the information they see and consume online.

“Canadians can play a role in pointing out and stopping the spread of misinformation and harmful disinformation”, Canadian Heritage added in its press release. The department said that it will work closely with what it called “targeted and specialized” organizations, and that chosen stakeholders will be contacted in the following days.

RT and RT France pulled from the airwaves

In addition, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has removed the television channels RT and RT France from the List of non-Canadian programming services and stations authorized for distribution by Canadian television service providers.

According to the CRTC, based on 373 submissions received during a public consultation that was launched on March 3, 2022, the programming of these channels “is not consistent” with the Canadian broadcasting standards and with the objectives of the Broadcasting Act, and their distribution “is not in the public interest” and “no longer serves the public interest”.

“Television service providers are authorized to distribute foreign television services in order to provide Canadians with a broad range of views and voices. […] However, the CRTC considers that non-Canadian news services should be held to the same standards in respect of their programming as Canadian services”, the CRTC said in its decision.

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