Canada’s Online Harms Act Aimed to Address Harmful Online Content

Earlier this week, Canada introduced Bill C-63, also referred to as the Online Harms Act (the “Act”), which would require online content providers to act responsibly with regard to the platforms they operate and to remove harmful online content. The Act further establishes a Digital Safety Commission of Canada to administer and enforce the legislation, as well as ensure that operators of social media services are held accountable under the requirements of the Act.


The Act is aimed to promote online safety and protect children from harmful online content. The Act requires content providers to swiftly remove all harmful content, defined under the Act to include:

  1. intimate content communicated without consent;
  2. content that sexually victimizes a child or revictimizes a survivor;
  3. content that induces a child to harm themselves;
  4. content used to bully a child;
  5. content that foments hatred;
  6. content that incites violence; and
  7. content that incites violent extremism or terrorism.‍

Operators in Scope

The Act covers social media services, including adult content and live-streaming services, with the intent of holding these online platforms accountable for any harmful content they publish or promote. As users, people in Canada will be afforded the opportunity to flag harmful content, request that harmful content be removed, submit complaints to the Digital Safety Commission, and file complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission regarding online hate speech. Private and encrypted messaging platforms are excluded from the legislation.

Penalties for Non-compliance

In order to comply with the proposed Act, content providers in scope must create special protections for children, which may include content warning labels, parental controls, and privacy and safe search settings. Any company in violation of the Act could be fined up to 6% of its gross global revenues or up to $10 million. It is important to note that the Act does not require content providers to proactively search its user-generated content in order to identify harmful content.

Further, the Online Harms Act amends the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code by establishing new definitions for hate speech and raises the maximum punishment for advocating for or promoting genocide from five years to life in prison.

Next Steps

The Act is expected to receive Royal Assent, at which point the Governor in Council will work to bring the Act into force in Canada. We will continue to monitor and report on important developments in this area.

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