A majority of Canadians surveyed want governments to get tougher on harmful content on social media platforms and increase the powers of the federal Privacy Commissioner to help safeguard personal information.

Those are some of the results of a poll of 1,254 internet users conducted in February and released Wednesday by the Canadian Internet Registry Authority (CIRA), which administers the .ca domain.

Seventy-seven per cent of respondents supported giving the Office of the Privacy Commissioner new powers to help protect their personal information.

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Six months ago the Liberal government proposed increasing those powers in its new Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA, also known as Bill C-11). However, the legislation is still in second reading. The government has yet to send it to a committee for detailed analysis and testimony from witnesses.

Since its release privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien has publicly criticized some of the elements, most recently on May 11 while testifying on his budget. The proposed legislation gives the privacy commissioner new powers to order organizations to obey the law, to improve their privacy-protecting processes, and to recommend high fines. However, Therrien complained these powers are “subject to severe limitations and conditions.”

Among other poll results:

  • Eight in ten (84 per cent) Canadians are at least somewhat concerned that businesses willingly share users’ personal data with third parties without consent.
  • 84 per cent of Canadians support ISPs in blocking websites used to launch cyberattacks, but half also agree it’s an extreme measure that should be used as a last resort.
  • While there is broad support for a new law requiring social media platforms to remove illegal or harmful content within 24 hours of it being flagged (79 per cent), a majority of Canadians are concerned this could result in the removal of legitimate, lawful speech (62 per cent).
  • Most Canadians support government action to stimulate the creation of Canadian content (59 per cent). Support is strongest for requiring foreign streaming services to collect GST/HST and direct some of those funds towards Canadian content.
  • While Canadians support new funding for news (58 per cent), they are divided on the idea of forcing social media platforms to pay news publishers for linking to their content. Only 52 per cent support the idea, and there is equal support for requiring platforms to collect GST/HST and fund news from general revenue.

“The days of the ‘anything-goes’ internet are behind us,” CIRA chief executive Byron Holland said in a statement accompanying the release of the poll results. “Hate speech, fake news, and cyberattacks are rampant, and have undermined Canadians’ trust in the open web. The largely unregulated internet has driven incredible innovation, but this has come with significant costs. Canadians want change, so now it’s up to all of us to help design rules that restore trust online while respecting the spirit of the open internet.”

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