B.C. Pauses Social Media Harms Bill, Collaborates with Tech Giants on Online Safety

British Columbia pauses online harms bill after reaching agreement with social media giants to form an action table and collaborate on protecting people, especially youth, from online dangers.

Sakchi Khandelwal
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B.C. Pauses Social Media Harms Bill, Collaborates with Tech Giants on Online Safety

B.C. Pauses Social Media Harms Bill, Collaborates with Tech Giants on Online Safety

The British Columbia government has put its proposed online harms legislation on hold after reaching an agreement with major social media platforms, including Meta, TikTok, X, and Snap. The government and the platforms will form an online safety action table to discuss 'tangible steps' towards protecting people from online harms.

Premier David Eby said the legislation remains in place, and the province will reactivate it if necessary. The companies have agreed to work collaboratively with the province on preventing harm, and Meta will also work with B.C.'s emergency management officials to help amplify official information during natural disasters and other events.

The decision to pause the legislation, known as Bill 12 or the Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act, comes after Eby previously compared social media harms to those caused by tobacco and opioids, and said the legislation would allow the province to sue companies for health-related costs linked to their platforms. "The key driver for the legislation was the death of 12-year-old Carson Cleland, who died by suicide after falling victim to online sextortion," Eby said. "Bringing the social media companies to the table for discussion achieves the same purpose of protecting youth from online harm."

The opposition party, BC United, had called for a pause to the legislation, citing potential "serious legal and economic consequences for local businesses." The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade also expressed support for the pause, stating that they would welcome the opportunity to work with the government on developing well-targeted and effective measures to protect British Columbians without causing unintended consequences.

Why this matters: The collaboration between the B.C. government and social media companies marks a significant step in addressing online safety concerns, especially for children and youth. The agreement aims to find tangible solutions to protect people from online harms while avoiding potential unintended consequences for businesses and the economy.

Eby acknowledged being initially skeptical but said he has received assurances from the companies to work cooperatively with the province. The online safety action table will discuss measures to protect people, particularly children, from online harms. The government says the bill remains an option if the collaborative approach does not yield meaningful results by the end of the current term.

Key Takeaways

  • B.C. government pauses online harms legislation after reaching agreement with social media platforms.
  • Platforms and government to form online safety action table to discuss steps to protect people.
  • Legislation remains in place, may be reactivated if collaborative approach fails to yield results.
  • Opposition and business groups welcomed the pause, citing potential legal and economic consequences.
  • Collaboration aims to find solutions to protect people, especially children, from online harms.