Public Safety Minister ‘shocked’ by Twitter’s decision to leave an Ontario MPP’s tweet untouched

OTTAWA – Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says he was “shocked” by Twitter’s decision to leave untouched a tweet from an Ontario politician calling Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra “a terrorist” – even after users have reported the message as harmful and offensive.

“A big part of why I was more outspoken is that it’s not an isolated incident,” Mendicino told the Star late Wednesday.

“This is just the latest in a long line of missed opportunities for Twitter to do the right thing by clearly removing and removing offensive content, and in this particular case, hate speech.”

Mendicino’s remarks come after independent MPP Randy Hillier Alghabra, who is Muslim, called a terrorist in support of Ottawa’s vaccine mandate for truck drivers crossing the border between Canada and the US. It was tweeted late Monday night.

Hillier questioned Alghabra’s position that such mandates would help correct supply chains plagued by the pandemic, something the Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP said on Monday “condemns Canadians to starvation in the name of being safe. ”

In a Twitter post of his own, Mendicino shot back at Hillier, calling the comments “flagrantly offensive, offensive and Islamophobic”. The minister also tagged the social media giant’s Twitter handle and urged the company to act.

Hillier has since taken to Twitter to accuse Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his cabinet and the country’s prime ministers of committing acts of terrorism for enforcing pandemic-induced restrictions.

But a day after the MPP’s tweet was first posted and reported by users, Twitter ruled that the message did not violate any of its security policies, one of which includes content that harasses or threatens people because of their identity.

“It would be bad enough if it was just a violation of Twitter’s own rules, which are there to create security for all its users. But it does not end there, “said Mendicino.

“By leaving this tweet and many others, it makes it possible for the spread of hate speech to remain published on that platform. And this is an extremely worrying issue for all of us. “

Alghabra told reporters on Wednesday that he was “not unfamiliar” with attacks targeting his background, saying he expected all Canadians to “promote fear and hatred online or in person.”

This week’s incident is the second in so many months that Mendicino, who left the immigration file in October to tackle public safety, called on Twitter to remove malicious content.

In late December, the minister wrote a letter to Twitter Canada’s managing director urging the company to reconsider its decision to allow a threatening post targeting the president of the Canadian Medical Association, dr. Katharine Smart, stay on his website. The account behind the post was eventually deactivated, although it is unclear whether that outcome is related to Mendicino’s intervention.

The liberal government is working to introduce legislation to tackle harmful online content, including hate speech, which will cause social media platforms to be held responsible for content posted on their sites.

Ottawa’s efforts to develop such legislation last year have, among other things, met with concerns that the proposed bill would impede freedom of expression and privacy rights, including criticism.

The legislation is being amended to include feedback generated from a consultation period held during the last federal election, the results of which were not released to the public.

While that task falls mainly to Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Heritage, Mendicino says it’s an issue he plans to keep busy with.

“I will continue to work with various communities that are targeted online disproportionately and ensure that the resources are there to support them and to be outspoken about it,” the minister said.

“In a perfect world, we’ll see some of these tweets come down much faster,” he added.


Raisa Patel is a reporter in Ottawa who covers federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel


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