The federal government announced another measure on July 21 that will impact the information space, this time with a $2.4 million investment to counter “harmful online disinformation.”
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, the minister responsible for the file, has cited a desire to "have a common set of facts" as part of the motivation behind the new measure.
“These projects will give Canadians skills and tools to tell fact from fiction online. We live and work better as a society when we have a common set of facts,” stated Rodriguez.
The funding is said to be particularly geared toward “online disinformation” in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Canadian Heritage says the public should have access to diverse and reliable sources of information to hold governments and public institutions to account.
Three universities are receiving funding, including McGill (Max Bell School of Public Policy), Concordia (Project Someone), and Toronto Metropolitan (Leadership Lab).
They will be producing podcasts and online courses, and engage directly with online platforms on the topic of disinformation.
Multiple InitiativesThis latest announcement by the Liberal government is part of a wider strategy to regulate the internet and affect what Canadians can hear and see online.
The government has also undertaken consultations with a hand-picked panel of experts to help craft its legislation to tackle “online harms.”
One of the experts on the panel teaches at the Max Bell School of Public Policy, which has received funding from the latest initiative. Others already work for programs funded by the federal government, such as the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
“Given the serious and urgent nature of the harms created by disinformation, experts argued that legislation on online safety should consider disinformation in some capacity,” says a discussion summary provided by Canadian Heritage.
Nevertheless, the experts said disinformation cannot be defined in legislation since the government cannot decide what is true and what is false, and disinformation usually carries an intent that is hard to establish.