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Big tech challenges: NDP proposes office of Digital Rights & Technology

Further motivated by Facebook whistleblower

Monday October 18, 2021 | NATIONAL

by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends

In addition to a longstanding position that Canada’s federal government should start taxing ‘big tech’ doing business in Canada (as mentioned several times during the recent federal election campaign), now the federal NDP are highlighting the need to address transparency and disinformation by social media.

This comes after a former Facebook employee brought to light (in a presentation to USA senators) how the social media giant manipulates its audience through machination of user data by its algorithms.

“Legislators around the world have been calling for action on Facebook following the damning revelations while whistleblower Frances Haugen,” said Charlie Angus. MP, in a news release this morning, in keeping with the NDP’s promise to “fight for people” that they hammered home during the recent federal election.

Charlie Angus, NDP
Charlie Angus. MP (NDP)

A new approach to the big-tech file:

Angus says the incoming Liberal cabinet must take these allegations seriously and “rethink their badly-flawed handling of the big tech files”. Angus says that, as shocking as the allegations are, they aren’t surprising as the all-party committee identified numerous red flags in their 2019 study. “Unfortunately, the Liberal government chose to ignore most of the key recommendations,” and that now it is time to act. 

“Whistleblower Haugen has painted a picture of a corporate culture that is deliberately using the mass power of algorithms and AI to drive extremist content and undermine democracy. And yet the Liberal government’s response has been Bill C-10 which was little more than a political dumpster fire. Asking the CRTC to address the massive algorithmic manipulations by Facebook is like bringing a 1980s solution to a 21st century problem.”  

Office of Digital Rights and Technology:

Angus is advising the Trudeau government establish an office of Digital Rights and Technology with the mandate and order making powers to address the complex issues of algorithmic transparency, disinformation and extremist content. Among the six key recommendations made by Angus is the call for the feds to invest in research into the cognitive and social damage being done by social media. Big tech has done immense research into embedding deliberately addictive mechanisms that keep people trapped on their screens. 

“Ms. Haugen has shown that Facebook knew the Instagram program was having a damaging impact on the psyche of young teens and yet this company is now marketing to children. It is like letting Big Tobacco police itself. We need to invest in research to start looking at the cognitive and social impacts of online media addiction.”  

44th Parliament:

Last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he will announce his Cabinet on October 26 and that the House of Commons will set for the 44th Parliament starting November 22 for three weeks before a Christmas break.

With 25 seats, the NDP will have the same level of influence on progressive policies as they did in the previous parliament, as the Liberal minority government (160 seats in the 44th Parliament) will need the support of one or more opposition parties in order to pass legislation. The Conservatives have 119 seats, the Bloc Quebecois 32 seats, and the Greens 2.

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