This month, world leaders offered condolences to New Zealand after a deadly shooting rampage at two mosques killing 50 people and injuring many more. All of this was streamed live on Facebook. Prior to the shooting, he posted a 74-page so-called “manifesto” online.
The shooter identified as a "white nationalist" was fixated by racist conspiracy theories. He had been radicalized on the internet and mentioned several message boards and websites. He made repeated references to other right-wing extremists such as the shooter who killed six Muslim men in a Quebec City mosque in 2016.
When such acts of terrorism by radicals take place, we are left asking questions:
• How did this person become radicalized?
• When did this person subscribe to such beliefs?
• Where did this person get the information from?
• How did this person mobilize and carry out such violence?
• What could have been done to prevent this person from carrying out the acts of hate and violence?
We must go beyond prayers and words of condolence.
For three days after the Christchurch shooting, the Canadian government through Public Service and Procurement Canada quietly suspended its social media advertising only to resume taxpayer-funded advertising on the fourth day. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in response to the Christchurch mosque shooting has said his department will look “very, very carefully” at legislation which would force social media to remove “extremist” content.
As Canadians, we need to commit to taking actions. At the minimum we are suggesting the following three actions.
Firstly, Minister Goodale and the Federal Government, must bring forward legislation or regulatory changes to block hate, right-wing extremist and radicalizing content from all social media channels and platforms. The Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers, along with other world leaders are calling for a global crackdown on social media. It's simply not good enough for the Federal Government and our Ministers to "ask, encourage or urge" Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp to "do the right thing." We can't "hope" companies into action on their own. To this end, we are calling on all parties in Ottawa to work together day and night, to get this legislation passed before the House of Commons rise for the summer and election break.
Secondly, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) must do more to protect Canadians and prevent all forms radicalization from taking hold in our communities, by ruling that Canadian telecoms companies including ISPs - block websites whose content violates the public good and safety. Germany has banned social media platforms and search engines from showing Nazi content to users with a German IP address. Islamic State propaganda is routinely removed and blocked to prevent the radicalization of Muslims. Now is the time to remove and block right-wing extremist, white supremacist and Islamophobic propaganda – used to radicalized Canadians and others in Canada and to incite violence as we have seen in the Quebec City mosque shooting. We can't rely on the "basic decency" of tech companies to protect us or even block extreme content that fosters hate and mobilizes violence. We need Canadian regulators to do that for us.
Finally, we need a sustained and energetic public awareness campaign to counter the misinformation and hate that right-wing extremist groups are propagating. Their extreme views are seeping into the mainstream, where our mainstream media and politicians then legitimize these views.
To reporters and news outlets, you do not need to interview white supremacists, such as those from the PEGIDA rally this weekend, to offer a so-called balance story to your viewers and readers. In doing so, you have legitimized their hateful message in the mainstream Canadian discourse.
To mainstream politicians turning a blind eye to extremist radicals infiltrating their parties and political rallies, you are a big part of the problem. By not calling out and rooting out the extremist radicals, your silence is condoning white supremacy, racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic violence. Your silence is not a cloak of innocence – rather your silence is indifference – and the opposite of love is not hate – but indifference.
We won’t solve these problems in one day but doing nothing is no longer an option – not when the stakes are so high and so much is at risk. We must fight the extremism in every corner, in Toronto, in Markham – we won't rest until the job is done.