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

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.

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

Carol Todd on taking action against 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.

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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 says in his statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2024.

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