Canada has unveiled draft legislation aimed at combating online hate, proposing stringent measures that would hold major companies accountable for swiftly removing harmful content and imposing harsher penalties for inciting genocide.

Introduced by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the bill seeks to protect children from online predators by mandating the rapid removal of content that sexually victimises a child or communicates intimate material without consent. Major social media platforms would be required to remove such content within 24 hours, subject to oversight and review.

According to government officials, companies found in violation of the law could face fines of up to 6% of their gross global revenues. Justice Minister Arif Virani emphasised the need for consequences for those who violate online rules, particularly as bad actors target vulnerable individuals and promote violence.

The proposed legislation also mandates that content providers implement special protections for children, including parental controls, safe search settings, and content warning labels. While the bill covers social media platforms, user-uploaded adult content, and live-streaming services, it does not extend to private and encrypted messaging services.

Furthermore, the bill seeks to significantly increase penalties for advocating or promoting genocide, with the maximum sentence raised to life in prison from the current five years.

However, the fate of all provisions remains uncertain as the bill must undergo scrutiny by a parliamentary committee and the upper Senate chamber, both of which can propose amendments.

The move comes as other nations, such as Britain, with its Online Safety Law introduced last October, also take steps to protect children from online dangers.

Canada’s relationship with major internet companies has been strained, particularly over Ottawa’s insistence that they compensate Canadian news publishers for their content.