B.C. puts online harms bill on hold after agreement with social media companies

Click to play video: 'B.C. to work with Meta to deliver emergency information'
B.C. to work with Meta to deliver emergency information
WATCH: At a Tues. April 23, 2024 press conference, B.C. Premier David Eby said the province and Meta will work together to ensure British Columbians receive accurate vital emergency information on the social media platform – Apr 23, 2024

The B.C. government is putting its proposed online harms legislation on hold after reaching an agreement with some of the largest social media platforms to make people safer online.

Premier David Eby says in a joint statement with representatives of the firms Meta, TikTok, X and Snap that they will form an online safety action table, where they’ll discuss “tangible steps” towards protecting people from online harms.

Eby says the social media companies have “agreed to work collaboratively” with the province on preventing harm, while Meta will also commit to working with B.C’s emergency management officials to help amplify official information during natural disasters and other events.

“We have had assurance from Facebook on a couple of things. First, that they will work with us to deliver emergency information to British Columbia in this wildfire season that (people) can rely on, they can find easily, and that will link into official government channels to distribute information quickly and effectively,” Eby said at a Tuesday press conference.

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“This is a major step and I’m very appreciative that we are in this place now.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. takes steps to protect people from online harms'
B.C. takes steps to protect people from online harms

The announcement to put the bill on hold is a sharp turn for the government, after Eby announced in March that social media companies were among the “wrongdoers” that would pay for health-related costs linked to their platforms.

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At the time, Eby compared social media harms to those caused by tobacco and opioids, saying the legislation was similar to previous laws that allowed the province to sue companies selling those products.

Click to play video: 'Carol Todd on taking action against online harms'
Carol Todd on taking action against online harms

Last August, Eby criticized Meta over its continued blackout of Canadian news outlets as wildfires forced thousands from their homes.  Eby said it was “unacceptable” for the tech giant to cut off access to news on its platforms at a time when people needed timely, potentially life-saving information.

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“I think it’s fair to say that I was very skeptical, following the initial contact (with Meta),” Eby said Tuesday.

Eby said one of the key drivers for legislation targetting online harm was the death of Carson Cleland, the 12-year-old Prince George, B.C., boy who died by suicide last October after falling victim to online sextortion.

The premier says in announcing the pause that bringing social media companies to the table for discussion achieves the same purpose of protecting youth from online harm.

“Our commitment to every parent is that we will do everything we can to keep their families safe online and in our communities,” the premier said in his statement.

Click to play video: 'Premier Eby on Meta ban during B.C. wildfire season'
Premier Eby on Meta ban during B.C. wildfire season

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