Justin Trudeau: Online Disinformation Fuels ‘Flat-Earthers’ and ‘Anti-Vaxxers’

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau linked “Flat Earthers” to “anti-vaxxers” while warning against online “disinformation” during a city hall event Monday in Ottawa, Ontario.

Trudeau framed the government’s policy debate on digital censorship as a competitive balance between degrees of freedom of expression and the state’s ability to “protect” citizens from “disinformation”:

Governments have very limited tools to protect people in the online world, and that’s a good thing. It allows for an enormous amount of freedom – freedom of expression, freedom of discovery – no oppressive governments controlling what you see, what you want, But it also opens us up to a tremendous amount of nonsense, hate speech, illegal things, but also things that will lead us down roads where we will get lost.

The prime minister then linked “flat-earthers” with “anti-vaccinationists” via a shared “anti-science” identity:

I remember a few years before the pandemic, being really fascinated by Flat-Earthers, trying to understand — sort of — the thinking behind them, from people who have actively decided to create an identity for themselves.This was just a clear rejection of what science settled thousands of years ago with the ancient Greeks, and that there is no real contradiction with it.

It’s more about identity than it makes sense, and for people to be so absorbed in that, it was great trying to figure out what it was all about.

And of course, we’ve continued to understand the phenomenon of anti-vaccinationists and science and dissidents, and this rise in these echo chambers validating this kind of thinking in ways that have real consequences.

There are people in Canada who died surrounded by their families because they really and truly believed that the vaccine was more dangerous than the virus, and that it killed them.

Canadians should think about how to “bring responsibility” to tech companies while controlling the digital “public square,” Trudeau added:

My responsibility as Prime Minister is to try to keep everyone in this country as safe as possible, but I can’t protect everyone from every bit of misinformation on the internet. So we must have reflections on how to move forward, how to hold accountable to the corporations that control so much, the private corporations that control so much of the public square.You now live in an area where the police don’t pay your taxes to keep you safe.

They have no rules about businesses to regulate so you don’t get scammed by the corner shop. This is the new world we will have to try to adapt to, A.JAnd I can tell you, I’m worried about the direction we’re going.

Trudeau has also called for an increase in the proportion of women in the tech sector workforce. He claimed that forms of technology with higher percentages of female employees than the industry average perform better financially. He framed his position in the context of “diversity,” “gender balance,” and “inclusive politics”:

If half of your population isn’t fully involved in creating those technology solutions of the future, you’re missing out on an easy opportunity to properly challenge yourselves as more of a company.

We’ve all seen the stats on the boards. For example, companies that have more women on their boards weather economic shocks much better than companies that don’t, but that’s also true of companies with a higher proportion of women engineers and people in the technology industry.

People are starting to see that gender balance and inclusive policies aren’t just about kind of ticking a box or being nice or sounding like a modern progressive company, it’s actually about better solutions and better quality of output.

Trudeau concluded that Canadians trust their federal government.

He stated that “Peace, order and good government are good slogans in difficult times”. “Understand the people: trust our science, trust the doctors, trust the government will be able to be there to support you when you stay home and can’t go to work, but can still pay rent and pay groceries.”

Follow Robert Kreichick on Twitter @employee.

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