Prime Minister Trudeau delivers a keynote address at VivaTech in Paris, France
Hello friends. Thank you Maurice for your introduction. It’s always a pleasure to return to Paris, and I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to be here at VivaTech. Events like this bring together people from the industry, start-ups, executives, investors, students and academics from around the world. We are here today to share our ideas and best practices, aware of the many opportunities open to us.
We are living in an exciting, constantly evolving digital world. And many Canadian workers and companies have helped get us to this point; leading the way in fields like videogame development, fintech, and machine learning. Our communities are becoming more interconnected than ever before, allowing old friends to get back in touch, and helping families share special moments from thousands of miles away.
Truly, technological advancement has totally redefined how we live our lives. It's never been easier to take your banking into your own hands. We search for jobs with the click of a button; Artificial Intelligence is revolutionizing medicine, and you can now run an online business for a few bucks a month. Who would have thought, even just a decade ago that these things were on the horizon? It’s incredible when you think of it, that this very moment right now, the pace of change has never been this fast, and yet in the future, it will never be this slow again.
The speed at which we will continue to innovate, solve problems, and advance our societies will surprise us in a good way. The technological opportunity in front of us is enormous, that cannot be overstated. But change, and change that happens quickly, comes with risks too. What we’re seeing now, is a digital sphere that's turned into the wild west, and it's because we, as governments and as industry leaders, haven't made it enough of a real priority. But we have to pay attention to what's happening. The very character of our countries is on the line.
You know, two years ago, Canadians celebrated the 150th anniversary of our confederation. Over these last 150 years, we have established a series of standards that govern our daily lives and the way we interact with one another. Standards that reflect the values that are at the core our Canadian society, values of openness, respect, compassion, and the pursuit of equality, opportunities and justice. Today, the reality is that the gulf between the virtual and real world has disappeared, and now, we must ensure that these standards and values do not disappear as well.
When 51 people were gunned down at a mosque in New Zealand, and the attacker streamed it live, it wasn't a wake-up call, it was the last straw for government leaders, for tech companies like yours, and for citizens around the world. The usual response when these tragedies strike is to offer thoughts and prayers, to say the right words at the right time, but not actually do anything. While some people say that in the wake of an attack like that we shouldn't be talking about policy -- save it for another time they say, when the dust has settled and the emotions aren't as raw. Well, I believe that when 51 people are murdered and the whole world can watch it in real time, well, that's exactly the time to talk about policy.
Yesterday, alongside like-minded leaders, including President Macron and Prime Minister Ardern, Canada signed on to the Christchurch Call for Action. We’re ready to work with the private sector, including, and especially the people in this room, to eradicate terrorist and violent extremist content online once and for all.
The task that awaits us is enormous. I know. But to choose the opposite—in other words, do nothing—is unacceptable. Platforms in particular have the basic responsibility to ensure that the technology they offer the rest of the world is not used to spread hate speech or disseminate acts of violence. And when algorithms of certain platforms permit or even promote the spread of hateful content, something must change.
The Christchurch Call for Action is an important and fundamental step that emphasizes what we—members of the international community, governments and online service providers—must do to rectify this situation. It is clear that we must adopt a coordinated approach on a global scale, but we must also identify solutions at home, at the national level. The issues we are facing are complex. If we want to find real, sustainable solutions, we must absolutely develop a global strategy, which will allow us to regulate the digital sphere.
Here's the reality. People are losing trust in digital institutions for a whole host of reasons. They're anxious about the future of tech and the future of data. From emotional contagion experiments, to major privacy breaches, these concerns are absolutely valid. It used to be that governments had the tools they needed to protect their citizens in every sphere. Now, citizens are living more and more of their lives in a digital space that is unregulated, and that leaves people completely vulnerable. It's up to the platforms and governments to take their responsibilities seriously and to ensure that people are protected online.
You don't have to put the blame on people like Mark Zuckerberg, or dismiss the benefits of social platforms to know that we can't rely exclusively on companies to protect the public interest. We, of course, need innovators, small, medium, and large, to be developing new ideas, but we also need governments to ensure that the public interest is not at risk. Companies are built to attract investment and reward risktakers and investors. Government is there to promote innovation and risk-taking, while setting guardrails that protect us from the things that could go wrong. And so, we have to outline a path forward, even as we work to legislate and regulate in this ever-evolving tech space. It is essential that countries define how they will make those crucial decisions going forward.
That's why today, I'm announcing that Canada is stepping up. We will be launching a brand-new digital charter. This charter will outline what Canadians can expect from both the government and the private sector as it relates to the digital landscape. It will touch on principles like universal access and transparency, and it will serve as our guide as we craft new digital policy.
Through this new framework, our government will develop policies aimed at restoring citizen trust and holding platforms accountable. Because when people trust and platforms are held accountable, we are all able to make the most of the opportunities offered to us. This new charter is just the latest example of the many new measures we have adopted. When we speak of restoring citizen trust in technology, our government has already identified problems and implemented solutions. Canada is a genuine leader in this area. And we have shown leadership by having honest conversations with Canadians and the large platforms on issues such as hate speech, disinformation and electoral interference.
Hate and extremism are thriving online. I don't think anyone here would dispute that. Thanks to the anonymity of the internet, people can bully, harass, and intimidate nearly anyone who has a Twitter account. We’re seeing more and more public figures and everyday citizens choosing to step away from social media accounts, silencing their own voices because the rhetoric has gotten so toxic. And who can blame them? It’s commentary we wouldn't tolerate on our streets or in our public spaces. Platforms often facilitate and encourage this destructive behaviour, and as a result, these same platforms have become a breeding ground for extremists. With the power of the internet, and through lack of proper oversight, the hateful can champion their views, and incite violence from behind a computer screen and without consequence. And while these vile views live and fester online, they spill out into the real world with increasingly deadly consequences. It is our moral responsibility as leaders in government and in business, to denounce this hatred at every turn. We must stand united; we must fight back.
In Canada, we have spared no effort. We’ve worked with different partners and the big platforms, through the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, to detect and eliminate online terrorist content. We have set up the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence, which aims to end radicalization leading to violence. We have stepped up our investigations aimed at extremist and hate groups, including neo-Nazi groups that advocate white supremacy. In 2018, Canada sponsored the first United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on preventing and countering violence against women and girls in digital contexts. And in our last budget, we announced funding for the implementation of a solid strategy to fight racism. These are essential, crucial measures that we must take. But the work does not stop there.
Hate speech isn't the only issue permeating the tech world. Disinformation is also eroding trust between people and platforms. Facebook is by far the single largest source of online news in Canada. Articles and graphics are shared with a click; but more and more, we’re seeing that the content of those articles or the numbers in those graphics are either totally false or seriously manipulated. And what's worse, they are often passed off as the real deal, tricking people who don't have time to go down the rabbit hole of verifying internet sources. In Canada, more than six in ten millennials admit to falling victim to fake news. And the people who spread that fake news take advantage of the same characteristics of online platforms that allow hate and extremism to fester. The deliberate spreading of false information is undermining both social cohesion and democracy, writ large.
In Canada, our Minister of Health posted about the importance of getting your kids vaccinated, with the tongue-in-cheek written warning, that vaccines cause adults. Her social media was completely overrun for two days, with virulent comments from anti-vaxers, trolls and bots. This is a real problem. So, in Canada, we've launched citizen resilience and digital literacy initiatives so that people can learn to identify and resist disinformation campaigns.
We've also launched a review of the broadcasting and telecommunications acts, to ensure that they reflect the digital era we live in, both in terms of opportunities and risks. But there's always more to do, and a lot of what's left to be done falls to the companies. The platforms are failing their users, and they’re failing our citizens. They have to step up in a major way to counter disinformation; and if they don't, we will hold them to account, and there will be meaningful financial consequences.
Electoral interference is related to the issue of trust and the spread of fake news. It will come as no surprise when I say that these foreign operatives lead disinformation campaigns to influence national elections. They raise genuine issues that are important to people and use them to exacerbate social divisions. They provoke anger and sow mistrust; they undermine citizen trust in our democratic institutions. In 2018, half of all advanced democracies that held national elections had their electoral processes targeted by computer threats, including the online spread of fake news. That is why under our G7 presidency last year, Canada announced the creation of the G7 rapid response mechanism, an initiative aimed at strengthening coordination among G7 countries in order to identify, prevent and respond to threats targeting our democracies.
Now some of you may know Canadians head to the polls this October. And because of that, we created a new task force, bringing together our top intelligence and policing agencies to identify threats to our election and prevent foreign interference. Further, we’ve tasked our national police force with investigating and prosecuting those who try to subvert Canadian democracy. We also passed a law that bans organizations from running ads that are paid for with foreign funds. It prohibits platforms from knowingly selling election advertising to foreign entities, and we’re requiring that platforms maintain a registry of ads run during an election. Canadians, and only Canadians, will choose their next government. We will make sure of that.
Those are a few of the measures we have taken to combat hatred, disinformation and electoral interference online in Canada. But the ability of governments to intervene also has its limits. Faced with this major threat, platforms must put in place a large part of the solution. But a commitment without consequences is ineffective. When platforms shirk their responsibilities, we must be able to hold them accountable. I will have more to say on this matter in the coming months, but in the meantime, I want to talk to you about another trust issue that stands right now. It’s no secret that people are increasingly worried about respect for their privacy, and the lack of control they have over their own information. For instance, I think of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and the over-use of Facebook users’ personal information. It involved millions of users, including 622,000 Canadians who had their data used for political purposes. Basically, the fact that such a phenomenon could happen is absolutely unacceptable, but it is just one example among many others. Search engines, hotels, e-commerce sites, credit bureaus, banks, many have been the subject of major, highly publicized personal data breaches in recent years. It is evidence that industry giants are not doing enough to protect users’ personal information.
Right now, user data is overwhelmingly owned or controlled by a small number of platforms. Canadians, like others, are rightly concerned about the use of personal information by social media companies and they want clear rules to protect their personal information. Well, as the federal government, we believe that Canadians should have more control over their own data and that they should be able to move and take their data with them. We’ll have much more to say on this very soon, including at the upcoming open government summit in Ottawa. Navdeep Bains, Canada's Minister of Innovation, who also happens to be here today, will shortly unveil our digital charter and outline a series of initiatives that will guide our data policy for the future. His mandate includes, among other things, reforming Canada's data privacy laws and examining the impact of digital transformation on Canada's competition and antitrust rules and framework.
Because of the incredible power and presence of these large companies in people's everyday lives, governments must have the right tools in place to protect their citizens. Other government ministers will also be unveiling new measures shortly, as we take a whole-of-government approach in this important task.
Overall, these new measures that are added to the ones we’ve already implemented will form a solid basis toward restoring citizen trust in the digital sphere. Canada is showing the way in how to address hate speech, disinformation, electoral interference, personal information and control of data. Soon we will have a digital charter, a guide to help us shape the future of our country. My friends, I believe that every country in the world must be equipped with a global digital strategy. We must make people feel safe and we must make it so that they have the necessary tools to navigate the digital world, whether for their mental and physical well-being or to respect their privacy. And the industry giants must absolutely intervene with much greater determination. Some companies have started, but a lot more work awaits us because the truth is people have had enough, and the status quo just won’t cut it anymore.
Governments, industry, citizens, we all have a role to play in shaping the new digital landscape. We will all have a say in how we increase the regulation of, and consent for new tech. By allaying people's fears and anxieties, and by restoring trust in the digital world, we can focus on the incredible benefits of technology. We can have better banking, more streamlined search, innovative medicine, and barrier-free business.
Greater opportunities for people, and the ability to build stronger societies are within our reach, so let's move forward in the right way. In the wake of the Christchurch attack, social media helped coordinate prayer chains and vigils in communities around the world; 98% of the videos that YouTube removes for violent extremism are flagged instantly by machine learning algorithms, and after our terrible and tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash, a GoFundMe campaign provided crucial support to grieving families. This is the true power of technology. It connects us to one another, it makes our lives better, easier, and sometimes it even gives us hope.
So, to all the leaders in this room, let us restore trust in the digital space. Let us put people first, and together, let's keep building a better future for all.
Thanks a lot everyone.