Gould urges Twitter to take more responsibility for content as election approaches

Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould delivered a scolding to Twitter today, urging the social media platform to take more responsibility for its content ahead of the upcoming federal election.

“We know that their platform has been used and manipulated by foreign and malicious actors and we’re still waiting ro hear what their plans are here in Canada,” she told reporters in the foyer of Parliament’s West Block on Thursday.

Last week, Gould unveiled what the government is calling a Declaration of Electoral Integrity, which will see Ottawa work with online platforms to address online attempts to disrupt the upcoming federal election.

Facebook, Google and Microsoft have signed on to the declaration.

“We haven’t heard from Twitter on the declaration,” said Gould. “We haven’t heard from Twitter in terms of what they’re planning on doing for the upcoming election.”

“I think it’s important for Canadians to be aware that Twitter has essentially decided not to take responsibility for these activities, that Twitter is not committing to what they’ll do here in Canada. And quite frankly, we’re facing a time crunch.”

Michele Austin, head of government public policy at Twitter Canada, said the company had no comment to make “at this time.”

Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould says that Twitter has not responded to calls by the government to help ensure safe and fair elections introduced two weeks ago with their Declaration on Electoral Integrity Online. 1:26

Canada is just weeks away from the pre-writ and writ periods, which trigger a series of election laws.

Changes to those laws, contained in the government’s Bill C-76, require companies that sell online ads to set up a registry of political ads. Companies are also prohibited from accepting election ads from outside Canada.

Google has announced that it won’t run Canadian political advertising during the upcoming election. Facebook says it will, and has committed to setting up the required registry.

Gould said the government hasn’t heard from Twitter about whether it will comply with the online ad registry.

When asked if the department is considering any punitive action against the social media company, a department spokesperson said the minister’s comments today were about “applying pressure.”

Gould’s announcement of the Declaration of Electoral Integrity last week came just before an international coalition of MPs dedicated to fighting the spread of disinformation and hate speech online met in Ottawa to grill officials from various tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter and Google.

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