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Canada Plans to Regulate Social Media, Cites Election Meddling Issues

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The leading social media companies don’t seem to be overly enthusiastic about the Minister of Democratic Institutions of Canada’s drive to curb them.

Canada is considering imposing its own regulations on social media, citing the need to protect its upcoming elections from foreign meddling, The Guardian reported Monday. The possibility was raised by Canadian Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould.

"We are having active conversations with our partners and allies around the world as to what this would look like in the Canadian context," she said, referring to the UK's social media regulation ideas. "If there was a moment and opportunity we would seriously look into how we can move forward."

Last week, Gould said she was "very concerned" about possible foreign meddling and that there "have probably already been efforts by malign foreign actors to disrupt our democracy."

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She called on Twitter, Facebook and Google to "help safeguard the election" by promoting "transparency, authenticity and integrity" on their platforms, Reuters reports. However, Gould said she's disappointed by the slow speed of negotiations with the three companies.

Gould believes the social media companies must put more effort into countering "cyber threats," which include the "spread of disinformation," Reuters says. However, the tech companies appear to prefer to keep their inner workings to themselves.

"The platforms feel this is something they should be doing on their own and I don't have the confidence that they're disclosing everything with us," Gould said at a news conference.

The minister admitted Ottawa is "looking very closely" at the idea of imposing regulation on social platforms should tech companies continue to drag on their feet, pointing to the UK, which also proposed introducing a social media regulator Monday.

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According to the proposed UK legislation, social media platforms will be tasked with fighting child abuse, terrorism-related content, revenge porn, cyberbullying, disinformation and encouragement of self-harm; the proposed legislation reportedly makes social media executives "personally liable" for failure to remove such content, The Guardian report says.

Earlier on Monday, Canada's Communications Signals Establishment (CSE), the electronic counterintelligence service, published a report on possible election meddling, saying that Canadian voters will "very likely" encounter "foreign cyber interference" ahead of, and during, the 2019 general election. However, the agency said it is unlikely that the threat will be major, citing increased "public awareness" of the potential threats, according to The Guardian. The report also says that any possible foreign actor will be unable to directly change the vote outcome, because Canada's electoral apparatus uses old-fashioned paper ballots.

Back in 2016, the US accused Russia of staging a cyber operation to sway its presidential election in favour of Donald Trump. The idea has become a popular trope among numerous politicians around the world, despite Moscow's repeated denials of the allegations.

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