Even A Slim Majority Of Conservatives Support Legislation Requiring Social Media Companies To Proactively Remove Hate Speech

Three polls now demonstrate that 70 to 80 per cent of Canadians support various measures to hold platforms and individuals accountable for hate based posts, harassment, and threats.

Canadian Anti-Hate Network

Source: Unsplash

A new poll commissioned by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and conducted by EKOS Research has found overwhelming support for enforcement against social media companies for online hate speech in the country. 

Released on Monday, it aims to gauge the public’s sentiments towards the best way to deal with online hate and racism. 

Read the full report here

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The Liberal government is expected to introduce legislation to address online harms, including online hate, in April or May. Earlier this year, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and over 30 partner organizations gave the government a set of recommendations to address online hate.

Let us get out ahead of something – people are going to say legislation against hate speech is somehow an attack on free speech. It isn’t. Anyone using that argument either doesn’t understand the issue or is deciding that hate speech, racists, and trolls are more entitled to be heard than their victims: women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ persons, and others.

Also on Monday, the YWCA is launching its #BlockHate campaign which highlights the consequences of online hate, how it attacks and silences women, and especially women of colour and trans women.

Hate speech threatens its targets into self-censorship and silence. It makes it harder for some people to participate in journalism, politics, or to even have an opinion online.

That’s why a majority of Canadians (51%) agree that removing hate speech is good for everyone’s free expression. They understand it’s more important to protect the speech of women, BIPOC, and others than let hate speech, racists, and trolls attack and silence people. Only 28% of people disagree, which is roughly the same amount of people who don’t think online hate or racism is a problem in the first place (26%).

This is the third poll on the issue, but the first to explicitly measure partisan support for anti-hate legislation. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation was the first to poll on online hate this year; a poll commissioned by TVO’s The Agenda asked participants if they supported legislation against online hate; and now ours. All three found overwhelming (70-80%) support for various legislative measures to address online hate. 


Support For Stronger Enforcement


“About three-quarters of Canadians support some sort of measure to curb racism and hate on social media platforms,” the report reads. “Canadians are most supportive of strengthening laws to hold perpetrators accountable for what they say, share, and do online, with 79% supporting that measure.” 

Source: EKOS Research

EKOS says the next most popular measure is creating an independent oversight body to make sure large social platforms are following the law at 73% support, followed closely by requirements for social media companies to remove users who repeatedly share racist or hateful content on their platforms (72%).

Other options include stronger laws to hold social media companies accountable for their content (71%), as well as requiring platforms to remove racist or hateful content within 24 or 48 hours, or face fines (70%). 

The poll also found that around 73% of Canadian believe that online hate and racism is a large to moderate problem. With just under half (49%) of respondents believing online racism to be a large problem in Canada. The remaining one-fourth saying they believe it’s not really a problem (26%). 

Source: EKOS Research

“A significant number of Greens (75%), New Democrats (64%) and Liberals (54%) believe it’s a large problem, EKOS found, “but fewer than three-in-ten (28%) Conservatives believe it’s a large problem.” 

The  Canada-wide poll was run using an interactive voice response (IVR) system and reached out to 1,230 Canadians, all 18 years of age or older. The survey was conducted to gauge how big of a problem Canadians believe online hate is in Canada, and the support for different types of anti-hate regulations on social media platforms.

Conducted between March 1 and 5, the  margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percent, 19 times out of 20.

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