Purveying hate on the public dime

It isn’t easy to get suspended from Twitter or Facebook.

More than a decade ago, I referred to it as “anti-social media”. I commented at the time that “Adherence to truth and reasoned thinking is clearly not a prerequisite for publishing on Twitter.”

You need to be pretty blatant in violating Twitter’s lenient terms of service.

Indeed, it is precisely the lax enforcement of terms of service standards that has led so many countries to be examining or enacting legislation to combat online hate. On March 30, Canada’s Heritage Minister, together with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General jointly announced the appointment of “a new expert advisory group on online safety as the next step in developing legislation to address harmful online content.”

“The Government of Canada is committed to a digital society that creates safe and respectful spaces online and protects Canadians’ freedom of expression.”

The Department of Canadian Heritage also has funded an Anti-Racism Action Program, funding projects aligned with one or more of 3 themes: Employment; Justice; and, Social participation. “The Anti-Racism Action Program will also prioritize projects that target online hate and promote digital literacy.”

So, given the Government’s commitment to a “safe and respectful spaces online”, and the Action Program’s priority of projects targeting online hate, I was surprised to see that the Anti-Racism Action Program was apparently funding a series of programs across the country organized in part by CMAC consultant Laith Marouf, whose @LaithMarouf account was suspended by Twitter for violating its rules against hateful conduct.

Although his notice from Twitter explicitly forbade evasion of the suspension by creating new accounts, he has been spreading his venomous messages under a new Twitter account, @Laith_Marouf.

Was sufficient due diligence performed when Heritage officials were reviewing this funding request? [If his name sounds familiar, recall that I wrote about him last summer.]

Should the Government of Canada be funding (directly or indirectly) purveyors of hate?

Should Canada’s imprimatur be attached to this series of programs?

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