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Facebook, Big Tech and the spread of online hate

A conversation about rights and democracy in the digital age

Tags for Facebook, Big Tech and the spread of online hate

News release details

Powerful social media platforms are dominating the global conversation, raising serious concerns about digital dangers for human rights. Increasingly used to spread hate and harmful messages, incite violence and invade privacy, Facebook and other social media giants are now coming under scrutiny as threats to democracy.

Taylor Owen, one of Canada’s leading experts in digital media ethics, will explore these issues in conversation with The Walrus editor‐in‐chief Jessica Johnson during a live, online event on November 9. This free virtual discussion has been organized by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) in partnership with Zena Simces and Dr. Simon Rabkin for the third annual Simces & Rabkin Family Dialogue on Human Rights.

“We have a right to be protected from harmful speech as well as the right to freedom of speech,” Owen says. “But the balance between these two rights has been upended by the current digital ecosystem. This demands that governments get involved in protecting us from online harm. The harm is vastly amplified in the global south, where social media is often used to inflame racial tensions and incite violence with far too little oversight or accountability.”

  • WHAT: Virtual conversation about rights in the digital age
  • WHEN: Tuesday, November 9, 2021, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. CST
  • WHERE: Live on Zoom (online). Please register in advance. Free.

Headshot of a smiling man with short, dark-brown hair. He is wearing glasses and a suit.

Taylor Owen is the Beaverbrook Chair in Media, Ethics and Communications, founding director of the Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy, and an associate professor at McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy. He is a regular tech commentator for The Globe and Mail and hosts the Big Tech podcast for the Centre of International Governance, where he is also a Senior Fellow. His work focusses on the intersection of media, technology and public policy. Owen is also the author of Disruptive Power: The Crisis of the State in the Digital Age and co‐editor of The World Won’t Wait: Why Canada Needs to Rethink its Foreign Policies and Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State.

Headshot of a woman with long brown hair. She is wearing a white shirt.

Jessica Johnson is editor‐in‐chief of The Walrus, a Canadian magazine committed to the idea that a healthy society relies on informed citizens. A former editor at The Globe and Mail and The National Post, Johnson is an award‐winning journalist who has contributed essays, features and criticism to a wide range of North American publications. She was also co‐creator, with Maclean’s magazine journalist Anne Kingston, of “#MeToo and the Media,” an inaugural course in the University of Toronto’s Book and Media Studies program.

About the event partners 

The Museum is proud to partner with Zena Simces and Dr. Simon Rabkin for the third annual Simces & Rabkin Family Dialogue on Human Rights.

Zena Simces has had a keen interest in human rights for many years. She has been involved in organizing a lecture on human rights with the Atlantic Human Rights Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick for more than 30 years. She has also dedicated many years to addressing issues of hatred and prejudice as a leader with Canadian Jewish Congress in British Columbia and with the National Committee. Her professional career as a consultant in the health, social policy and education areas has included advocating and enhancing the rights of minority groups.

Dr. Simon Rabkin devoted some of his early career to providing health care to underserviced areas in Northern Canada and in Kenya. His experiences there and subsequently caring for disadvantaged individuals fostered his commitment to human rights. In various committees, in the private and public sectors, he has advanced the cause of human rights as well as issues of equity and diversity.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. A national museum of Canada, the CMHR uses multimedia technology and other innovative approaches to create inspiring encounters with human rights for all ages, in a visitor experience unlike any other.

Media contacts

Maureen Fitzhenry (she/her)