Canada has announced intentions to make internet hate speech a felony.

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The Liberal government of Canada announced plans on Wednesday to make online hate speech a felony, albeit the proposed law excludes social media sites for the time being.

The proposed changes to Canada’s criminal codes and human rights act, which have been in the works for months, come only weeks after an assault in which four members of a Muslim family were slain.

A 20-year-old man faces murder and terrorism charges after ramming a family with his vehicle on June 6 in the southwestern Ontario town of London, according to police.

“The actions we are taking today will help protect the vulnerable, empower those who are victimized and hold individuals to account for the hatred they spread online,” Justice Minister David Lametti said in a statement.

The proposed amendments would make it easier for people to launch complaints against individuals who publish on the Internet – including on social media, on personal websites, and in blog posts – as well as operators of websites.

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A person could be fined up to C$20,000 ($16,250) if found guilty of hate speech that personally identified a victim.

However, the operators of social media platforms are excluded for now. Ottawa said it would soon ask the public for input on proposals to make those operators more accountable.

These would include rules for how platforms “address harmful material such as hate speech, terrorist content (and) content that incites violence”. Government officials said the consultation process would take place over the summer months.

The chances of the amendments being approved soon are slim, given that Wednesday was the last day of the current parliamentary session and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to trigger an election in the next few months.

$1 = 1.2305 Canadian dollars)


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