There are only weeks until the campaigning for the 43rd General Election in Canada starts. However the state of political discourse in Canada has never been as low as it is before an election as it is today. The language we’re speaking, the assumptions we’re making and the tone we’re using all are contributing to the discourse and really the anger in the conversations are at levels I have never heard before.
What are the origins of the new lows of our political discussions, where did we accept this behavior? Why do we accept this behavior? Have our leaders brought us to this point? Who do we hold responsible? Is all this because our new communication devices allow us, anyone to to have a personal soapbox? Our new communication freedom also brings millions of voices to us in a click.
There are voices that generate a lot of emotion, we all immediately think of @realDonaldTrump and his daily tweets – he generates strong reactions from supporters and opponents. In Canada our political leaders may not generate the same emotion, but Canadians are engaging. What concerns me is that we can’t engage without some people confusing opinion with information. As an example, this post and blog is based on my opinions and where ever possible I will insert information that support my opinion.
I cannot the only one concerned with this, I think that many Canadians share this with me, and now Parliamentarians must share this opinion as well; The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Parliament Hill is currently studying “Online Hate”. The committee has been hearing from witnesses since April. With Parliament approaching the summer recess the study will be wrapping up so that a report can be written and tabled before the House rises. The report will include recommendations that might be the basis for campaign promises during the upcoming election.
It is easy to compartmentalize hate as coming from one side of the political spectrum; one side claims to be on the side of good, automatically labeling the other as hateful. Online its easy, some people are faceless and nameless. Can you imagine if school playgrounds were treated the same as social media? If that were the case the principal’s office would have a line-up of combatants having to ‘explain themselves’ and their actions. If we never tolerated this type of activity in schoolyards, why do we allow it online?
I’ll wait for the report from the Justice and Human Rights Committee and read it with great interest. The committee heard from witnesses from many faiths, ethnic groups, LGBT groups, Gender groups, Human Rights, government departments and agencies and Individuals came and provided testimony. Will this provide an insight into how or if the government should regulate hate speech online.
Interestingly, the week the Justice Committee was meeting, the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy was also meeting in Ottawa. The second Grand Council of the committee was in Ottawa to have the tech giants talk about data security, #fakenews and privacy. The meeting had the understated question if FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) should be required to do more that they are? The meeting was overshadowed by the decision by Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg ignored a summons to appear in front of the committee.
Parents, teachers, principals, school administrators and others wouldn’t allow faceless and nameless bullies on school property during recess to harm the children, why do we tolerate them on social media where more harm can be done with words, images and videos – where people we don’t even know have access to influence others? Don’t we deserve a safe social media playground?
Isn’t it time we took into consideration the audiences, known and unknown, we have online and started to police our own words and actions and call out others who cross a line? Can’t we all use a better language online? Surely (mostly) everyone doesn’t use the same language in person that is used online. We all need to use the golden rule of social media, use the language you want used on your posts when you post and comment on others.
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