Covering Airbnb Hate Law, Video Games: Panel


Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — A panel of experts tasked with helping craft federal legislation aimed at combating online hate suggests it covers Airbnb, the vacation rental booking site, as well as video games and even private communications online.

The advisory committee believes that a future online hate law should have a broad scope covering not only Twitter and Facebook, but also smaller online platforms, including crowdfunding apps, according to published reports of their discussions. in line.

Many of the panel’s experts also supported bringing private online conversations “within the legislative framework”.

The Liberal government has said it wants to introduce an Online Hate Bill so that harmful content, such as racist and anti-Semitic abuse online, is quickly removed by platforms.

Earlier this year, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez appointed the Online Safety Expert Advisory Group to advise on a framework for such a law.

In the group’s working papers, the Heritage Department said it was not inclined to regulate services such as Uber, Airbnb and Peloton. The department suggested they be “barred out…because their primary purpose is not to enable communication between people per se, but to arrange transportation, rent accommodation, or participate in fitness classes.”

However, many experts on the panel suggested a broader scope and wanted to “incorporate all entities that communicate online”. Some said there was “justification to look more broadly,” including “some interactive services like Airbnb and gaming platforms,” show minutes of their meetings.

A few expert advisers added that “it would be difficult to assert generalized obligations to act responsibly on some platforms (e.g. social media companies) but not on others that operate at the same level of the stack technology (e.g. Airbnb, video game platforms).”

The report of their meetings said some panel members thought “a broad definition would help address evolving/emerging technologies to help future-proof the legislation.”

He said members “highlighted that often a high level of harmful content, such as terrorist content or child pornography, is shared in private communications rather than in public forums – and that excluding these types of communications would leave a lot of harmful content on the table.”

San Francisco-based Airbnb said communications on its platform are between people booking accommodations and landlords, such as asking about dog permission.

It said it has an extensive and strict anti-discrimination policy and removes people who do not adhere to it from the list, as well as those linked to extremist groups.

An Airbnb spokesperson said the site banned the accounts of dozens of users with ties to white nationalist groups, including those identified as members of Iron March, a neo-Nazi forum, following the Disclosure of Forum Membership.

“Discrimination of any kind – including bias, prejudice and racism – has no place on our platform or in our community in Canada and around the world, and we have strong policies in place. on these issues that align with our inclusive values,” said Nathan Rotman of Airbnb Canada.

“According to the government, this bill is intended to regulate social media platforms, not platforms like Airbnb.”

In the United States, Harvard Business School researchers exploring racial discrimination at Airbnb found that applications from guests with distinctly African-American names were about 16% less likely to be accepted than guests with distinctly African-American names. whites.

Bernie Farber, president of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and a member of the 12-person panel, said Airbnb should fall within the scope of regulations aimed at combating online hate, as discussions are taking place about its platform.

The government has also asked its advisory group to consider how far the law should go.

“Should upper-layer interactive services that are not social media platforms – such as video game platforms and streamers, or crowdfunding platforms – also be included?” said government newspapers giving topics for their deliberations.

Some panel members said a broader scope would include entities that are successful in recruiting violent extremists who adapt quickly “and have turned to video game services, file-sharing sites and live audio applications”.

Laura Scaffidi, spokeswoman for Rodriguez, said “the online safety expert advisory group is mandated to provide the government with advice on how to tackle harmful content online” and noted that the 12 panel people have a “wide range” of opinions and experience.

“We look forward to the continued work of the group and the final summary,” she added.

“We’re going to take the time we need to get it right.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 11, 2022.

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Carolyn M. Daniel