Canada Free Expression Privacy

Online Harms Bill C-63 is a positive step forward

A more careful approach that must still be stress-tested.

February 26, 2024 — Today the federal government introduced the Online Harms Act, Bill C-63. It comes years after the government's 2021 proposal for regulating online harms, which was met by overwhelming critique from citizens, academics, and civil liberties groups. C-63 aims to regulate 7 types of harmful online content on social media, live streaming, and adult websites. Unlike the previous proposal, it adopts a less punitive approach, requiring platforms to fulfill three duties: adopt responsible harm management strategies, prioritize child welfare, and promptly remove two types of easily identifiable harmful content, child abuse material and nonconsensual adult images and videos.

“Bill C-63 is a night and day improvement to the government’s previous plans for regulating harmful online content,” said OpenMedia’s Executive Director Matt Hatfield. “Many of the worst 2021 surveillance and censorship ideas are gone, and in their place we’re seeing a more thoughtful, calibrated approach. But today is a start, not the endpoint. Over the days ahead, we’ll be giving C-63 a close reading to identify remaining problems and ensure they are addressed in the amendment process.”

“Harsh but constructive criticism has had a deeply positive impact on this bill,” continued Hatfield. “And the government deserves credit for responding with a thorough rework before introducing Bill C-63. We hope this thoughtful approach continues through the amendment process, with our leaders continuing to take seriously the complex trade-offs and risks that must be managed by legislation this sensitive.”

The 2021 white paper proposal garnered extensive criticism for problematic provisions such as requiring 24-hour takedowns for all regulated content, automatic direct reporting of removed content to law enforcement agencies like CSIS and the RCMP, and inappropriately grouping vastly different types of harmful content under the same regulatory response. 

After the paper was heavily critiqued, the government convened a 12-person expert advisory group and held a series of national consultations on online harms, ending in a "What We Heard" report on their findings in 2022. Visible progress on a revised harmful content proposal was slow in 2023, leading to demands from some experts and groups for more urgent action. But groups have also continued to caution against repeating 2021’s mistakes, with 13 civil society groups issuing a 2023 statement on principles harms legislation must not violate. 

In 2021, over 8,000 OpenMedia community members provided their input to the harmful content consultation, alongside a detailed OpenMedia submission raising concerns with the proposal and suggesting more appropriate areas for platform legislation. A further 12,000 messages have been sent to the previous Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez to demand reworking the harmful content proposal to respect privacy and freedom of expression. 

In the days ahead, OpenMedia will publish a more detailed analysis of positive and problematic elements of C-63, and launch a campaign to further strengthen it to benefit all Canadians.

About OpenMedia

OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.


Matt Hatfield,

Executive Director, OpenMedia

[email protected] 

1 (888) 441-2640 ext. 0

OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet. Take action now

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