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Has Twitter Run Afoul of Canadian Law? Sujit Choudhry Weighs In on Content Policies

The Canadian government has had its hands full with the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn't mean that other battles can't be fought at the same time. In this digitally driven era, online content platforms like Twitter and Facebook are becoming increasingly powerful as news vendors. Through sponsored posts and advertising campaigns, users can reach millions of individuals with just a few clicks.

Due to this extensive reach and because of Twitter's content policies, the Canadian government is now being sued by the production team behind The Corporation, an influential documentary that has grossed more than any other doc in Canadian film history.

How The Corporation Took Notice

The production team behind The Corporation is composed of major voices in both law and politics, including Joel Bakan (University of British Columbia) and Sujit Choudhry (Constitutional Lawyer).

Choudhry says of the documentary they've produced on the power of big tech, "This is a Canadian story, but this could also be a German story, it could be an Indian story, or it could be a South African story." He adds, "We hope this is a precedent-setting case, globally."

The lawsuit that Choudhry and his team are introducing is based upon Twitter's rejection of boosted posts, brought to their attention when a trailer for The Corporation was denied a sponsored post. Twitter told the team behind The Corporation that their work was 'too political', 'sensitive', or otherwise 'inappropriate'. The trailer featured video clips and voiceover soundbites from major political and social figures, including Bill Gates.

Joel Bakan is the writer of The New Corporation and he said, "Platforms do whatever they want, and there's not much we can do about it. This case aims to change that."

Boosted Posts, Censored Ads, and Free Speech

While The Corporation may call for making moves to ensure a more robust democracy, the efforts laid out in the film speak entirely of the issue highlighted by Twitter's content policies. Choudhry points to the role that Twitter plays in the broader spectrum of Canadian discourse, highlighting the fact that the social media platform is a crucial vector for communication.

Sujit Choudhry and his team believe that Twitter's content policies can't legally block sponsored posts because of political affiliation or speech that does not cause any harm. The New Corporation team believes that Twitter should operate to the same standards as the government.

Sujit Choudhry and his team claim that the lack of explanation for the sponsored rejection was both problematic and directly injurious to the film itself. Choudhry pushes the concept further, noting that Twitter is based out of the United States and is now actively censoring Canadian content, thus challenging its very sovereignty.

However, Choudhry wants to make it clear that this case is a far cry from the one filed by Donald Trump. Choudhry points out that the Canadian Constitution has a differing set of free speech laws which, they believe, is more accommodating to actors that do not post anything incendiary, hateful, harmful, or discriminatory.

After trying to escalate the situation up the Twitter content ladder, Choudhry and his team were ultimately left dissatisfied. Choudhry says, "There's no reason why Twitter should have banned this trailer."

Sujit Choudhry goes on to point out that political content being restricted without any actionable harm can be described as a severe restriction on freedom of speech and expression, an issue that has become more contentious in recent years.

From his perspective, Mr. Bakan believes that the ad had been rejected by artificial intelligence, suggesting that AI's role in content moderation is far too subjective to moderate public discourse. Mr. Bakan says, "Twitter being allowed to arbitrarily decide from California who can say what is really problematic, and as we argue, illegal."

At the time of this writing, Choudhry and Bakan had filed a case with the Superior Court of Ontario, located in Toronto. Choudhry and Bakan still plan on releasing The New Corporation at some point in 2021 due to the otherworldly success of their initial release.

About Sujit Choudhry

A leading expert on the subject of the Canadian constitution, Sujit Choudhry has been meticulously cited throughout the courts of Canada up to and including the Supreme Court of Canada. Choudhry has spent the last two decades working as both an advisor to constitutional reform and a supporter and advocate for democracy. Having spent his life traveling the world, Sujit has traveled to 25 countries while connecting with more than 50 constitutional experts.

Sujit has previously served as the Law Clerk to former Chief Justice Antonio Lamer before being called to the Bar of Ontario. Choudhry has law degrees from Harvard, Oxford, and Toronto. Sujit is also a published author.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or the management of EconoTimes​

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