As liberal voters champion the proposed Online Harms Act, ostensibly designed to tackle online abuse and safeguard children, they unwittingly lay the groundwork for their own downfall should conservative forces seize control. While they hail the introduction of heavier sentences, the establishment of regulatory bodies, and the broadening of laws to combat hate speech and the sexualization of children, they remain oblivious to the looming specter of ideological manipulation and suppression of dissent inherent within such legislation.

At first glance, the act appears to be a beacon of protection, promising to police seven categories of harmful content online, including bullying of children, encouragement of self-harm, hate speech, incitement of violence or terrorism, and sexualization of children or victims of sexual violence. Justice Minister Arif Virani’s impassioned rhetoric underscores the urgency of the matter, invoking the safety, mental health, and very lives of society’s most vulnerable, particularly children.

Yet, beneath this veneer of benevolence lies a Pandora’s box of peril. The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, raising the maximum sentence for advocating genocide to life imprisonment and creating a separate offence for hate-motivated crimes, ostensibly target the purveyors of online vitriol. However, in the hands of a conservative government, these provisions could be perverted to criminalize dissenting voices and progressive activism, subjecting liberal citizens to draconian penalties for advocating for social justice or challenging prevailing norms.

Moreover, the amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act, empowering the Canadian Human Rights Commission to address online hate speech, and the establishment of a digital safety commission tasked with content removal, grant unprecedented authority to the state to regulate online discourse. While ostensibly aimed at combating genuine instances of harm, such measures risk chilling free expression and emboldening censorship, particularly when wielded by a conservative regime with a vested interest in suppressing dissenting voices and preserving the status quo.

The proposed expansion of mandatory reporting requirements for internet services, coupled with the imposition of hefty fines on non-compliant platforms, further solidifies the state’s stranglehold on online expression. By compelling companies to assess, minimize, and report risks to users, and by mandating the removal of specified content within strict timeframes, the government effectively assumes the role of arbiter of acceptable speech, with potentially dire consequences for those who dare to challenge prevailing orthodoxy.

Even as Meta, the parent company of social media giants like Facebook and Instagram, pledges cooperation with the government, liberal voters must reckon with the Faustian bargain they unwittingly endorse. The promise of safety and security online comes at the cost of surrendering fundamental freedoms and empowering a regulatory apparatus that could just as easily be turned against them.

In their eagerness to combat online abuse and protect the vulnerable, liberal voters risk unwittingly arming their ideological adversaries with the tools of repression. Instead of blindly embracing measures that may ultimately undermine their own values and freedoms, they must heed the warning signs and advocate for a more nuanced approach to online safety—one that safeguards both the vulnerable and the rights of all citizens to freely express themselves without fear of censorship or persecution.