By Paul Vieira

OTTAWA--Canada on Monday proposed new rules that would compel digital platforms to remove online content that features the sexual exploitation of children or intimate images without consent of the individuals involved.

The rules were years in the making, and represent the third and possibly final installment of measures aimed at regulating digital platforms. Measures introduced since 2022 aim to increase the amount of domestic, Canadian-made content on streaming services, such as Netflix, and require digital platforms to help Canadian news-media outlets finance their newsroom operations.

"Right now it is too easy for social media companies to look the other way as hate and exploitation festers on their platforms," Canadian Justice Minister Arif Virani said. "This bill will require platforms to do their part and to do better to keep people safe from harm and exploitation, especially our children."

The legislation needs to be approved by Canada's Parliament before it takes effect.

Canada said its rules are based on concepts introduced by the European Union, the U.K. and Australia. Canadian officials say the proposed measures would apply to social-media platforms, adult-entertainment sites where users can upload content, and live-streaming services.

These services, officials said, are expected to expeditiously remove two categories of content: That which sexually exploits a child or an abuse survivor, and intimate content broadcast without an individual's consent. The latter incorporates so-called revenge porn, or the nonconsensual posting or dissemination of intimate images, often after the end of a romantic relationship.

"The purpose is to capture social-media services that Canadians use the most," Canada officials said in a power-point presentation.

Officials said private and encrypted messaging services are excluded from the proposed regulations. Virani said the proposed measures won't undermine freedom of speech.

"It enhances free expression by empowering all people to safely participate in online debate," he said.

Canadian officials said platforms will have a duty to either ensure the material is not published, or take it down once notified. Canada also intends to set up a new agency, the Digital Safety Commission, to enforce the rules, order harmful content taken down, and hold digital services accountable. Platforms that violate the rules could face a maximum penalty of up to 25 million Canadian dollars, or the equivalent of $18.5 million, officials said.

Michael Geist, an internet-law expert at the University of Ottawa, said what's proposed keeps a narrow focus on online hate and the safety of children. That's in contrast, he said, to a previous, but failed, effort in 2021 that contemplated taking down or blocking websites. "This is much better," Geist said.

Write to Paul Vieira at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

02-26-24 1856ET