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Social media giants ignore law, don t take Canada seriously: MPs

Social media giants ignore law, don t take Canada seriously: MPs
Politics
OTTAWA -- Politicians are increasingly concerned that social media giants have become so big, powerful and rich that they are effectively above the law -- at least in a small country like Canada.

Their concern was on display last week at a meeting of the House of Commons access to information, privacy and ethics committee, where Liberal MPs raked Google over the coals for its decision not to run any political ads during this fall s federal election campaign, rather than comply with a new law that requires them keep an online ad registry.

"Here s my frustration," Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith told Google Canada representatives Jason Kee and Colin McKay.

"You have a company that makes billions of dollars and looks at ... a small jurisdiction in Canada and says, Your democracy doesn t matter enough to us, we re not going to participate. But if a big player decided to change the rules, I guarantee that you would follow those rules.

"But we are too small for you. You are too big, you are too important and we are just not important enough for Google for you to take us seriously."

"I d contest that observation," responded McKay.

He and Kee maintained the decision was strictly a technical one: Google engineers could not, in the short time frame required by the government, come up with a system that would reliably detect partisan and issue-oriented ads during the campaign and ensure they were all archived along with information identifying the source of the ads.

Following the last U.S. presidential election, when a spotlight was shone on the use of social media to spread fake news, sow dissension and manipulate the election outcome, Kee said Google created a template for political ad registries that it used in last fall s U.S. midterms and will deploy in India and the European Union. But he said it s not compatible with the specific requirements of the Canadian law, about which he said Google was not consulted.

Kee said Google will try to comply with the registry law by the next election in 2023.

It was clear Liberals on the committee weren t buying the explanation. It was equally clear their frustration with social media giants extends well beyond Google and the political ad registry.

Kee said that was "not remotely" the case.
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