Experts probe possible link between vaccine and woman's death; Federal Court rules Google misled customers on location data; PM flags future of international travel; Royals prepare for Prince Philip's funeral



By Tom Livingstone16 Apr 2021 07:02Scott Morrison thanked the Australian Defence Force personnel who are in Kalbarri and surrounding areas, helping with the recovery effort after Cyclone Seroja swept through on the weekend.He also commended the local SES who helped ensure some 7000 locals were safely evacuated prior to the storm hitting.”Some 7000 or so weren’t there. People who were in this town before that cyclone hit and the commander of the local SES made sure that people got out. That clearly saved lives,” Mr Morrison said.”That quick thinking, that experience that was needed in that moment, the work that was done as a community to get people to safety was extraordinaryand we are now in the position where the injuries here are minor, substantially, and there has certainly been no loss of life and that is, indeed, a miracle, given what we’ve seen happen as a result of this terrible cyclone.”

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Gold Coast couple’s Australian 4WD Hire company systematically lied to customers, Federal Court rules


A damning Federal Court judgment has found their Australian 4WD Hire business systematically lied to customers and used unfair contracts to demand they pay the full costs of repairing or replacing damaged vehicles, even if there was no damage.

Ruling on a lawsuit by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Justice Darren Jackson cancelled those contracts and fined parent company Smart Corporation $870,000 for misleading or deceptive conduct.

It is unclear whether that fine will be clawed out of the company because it is now in liquidation.

But its former controllers — businessman Vitali Roesch and his wife Maryna Kosukhina — have been given 21 days to repay customers $9,500.

If they do not, they “will be liable to imprisonment, sequestration of property or other punishment”, along with anyone who knowingly helps them breach the order.

The couple will also be forced to pay fines of $179,000 and $174,000 each.

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Not everyone has what it takes. Roman Anin, whose home and newsroom were raided by federal agents last week, explains the challenges of investigative journalism in Russia today




Roman Anin says part of his job is knowing to expect a visit from the authorities at any moment. When federal agents showed up at his Moscow apartment last week, however, he wasn’t immediately sure why they’d come. Officials searched his home for almost seven hours, working until midnight, before questioning him for a few hours more. It was only the next day when he learned that a separate team had also raided the iStories newsroom on Friday. The searches are part of an investigation into a case of alleged privacy invasion “committed through abuse of office.” Anin is currently listed as a witness, but he believes he could face felony charges himself. The trouble stems from an investigative report Anin wrote in 2016 when he was still a reporter at the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, where he revealed that Olga Sechina (then Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin’s wife) owned one of the most expensive luxury yachts in the world. Meduza spoke to Anin about the raid on his home, why this case has suddenly returned, and what it means for other investigative journalists in Russia.

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NY to follow federal recommendation, pause J&J vaccinations – Long Island Business News


New York state health officials will follow federal recommendations and pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced Tuesday.

Zucker said all appointments for Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Tuesday at state-run mass vaccination sites would be honored with the Pfizer vaccine.

“I am in constant contact with the federal government, and we will update New Yorkers as more information becomes available,” Zucker said in a news release.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a virtual news briefing that the city would follow the federal recommendation and stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well.

De Blasio, who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine himself last month, said the pause in vaccinations was a setback for the city but added, “our effort continues strong and will continue today and every day until we beat this disease.”

City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said city-run sites have administered about 234,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with no reports of the type of blood clot that prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to recommend halting its use.

“We continue to monitor for that, of course, in coordination with our federal partners, but we have not seen that thus far,” Chokshi said.

The pause comes as the State University of New York has been rushing to vaccinate tens of thousands of students before the end of the semester next month.

SUNY said last week that 350,000 students were being urged to make appointments on 34 campuses. SUNY said it would use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because its one-dose protocol would ensure students would be fully vaccinated by the time they left campus.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Jim Malatras said SUNY was working with New York state to locate alternative COVID-19 vaccines.

“We urge all students with appointments for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to contact their campus or vaccination site because alternatives have already been found in some instances,” he said in a statement.

Several colleges announced the cancellation of vaccination clinics planned for Tuesday.

“We apologize to those who were looking forward to being vaccinated today,” Heidi Macpherson, president of SUNY Brockport, said in a statement. “More information about other potential vaccination opportunities, on or off campus, will be shared when they become available.“

Officials at SUNY Oswego announced that a Johnson & Johnson vaccination clinic scheduled for Tuesday would be canceled and advised students and employees to look into local options for getting the Moderna vaccine.



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The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Melbourne loses trademark battle in the Federal Court


The Corner Hotel in Melbourne’s Richmond has lost a Federal Court trademark battle over another venue’s use of the word ‘corner’.

The award-winning pub, which has hosted some of the world’s biggest music names, registered trademarks for The Corner, Corner Hotel, Corner and Corner Presents.

Operators Swancom took the CBD-based Jazz Corner Hotel, its associated Corner Cafe and Bird’s Basement music venue to court over their trademarks that include the word ‘corner’.

The three businesses are in the same building, owned by the same group and are close, but not actually on a street corner.

Federal Court Justice Michael O’Bryan on Friday dismissed Swancom’s claim against the venues, and the Jazz Corner Hotel’s counter-claim against the Richmond pub.

He said the Swancom and Jazz Corner trademarks were obviously similar in so far as their respective uses of the words hotel and corner.

But in his judgment delving into the definitions of the words ‘corner’, ‘pub’, ‘hotel’ and ‘jazz’, Justice O’Byran said the risk a member of the public might be confused about live music offered by the two venues was remote.

“I take judicial notice of the fact that, in Australia, hotels or, more colloquially, ‘pubs’ (a business licensed to serve alcoholic drinks on the premises) are often located on street corners,” Justice O’Bryan said.

The Richmond pub claimed the CBD venues’ use of terms including The Jazz Corner Hotel and The Jazz Corner Cafe, was deceptively similar to that used by Swancom.

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Federal government accused of failing the nation over AstraZeneca vaccine on Q+A as Martin Iles defends Israel Folau



The Australian government has been accused on Q+A of “failing at the first hurdle” when it comes to the nation’s vaccine rollout and problems with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The show aired on Thursday night following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s press conference where he and his team announced the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has a possible link to rare blood clots in a very small number of recipients, would no longer be given to Australians under the age of 50.

Instead, they will be given the Pfizer vaccine, meaning Australia’s already behind-schedule vaccine rollout threatened to slow further.

On Q+A, multiple panellists criticised Mr Morrison for “backing the wrong horse” and not taking a wider approach to acquiring more different vaccines such as those from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

“Australians really set the global standard in looking after one another, locking down in a way that reduced our COVID numbers, and our reward for that was meant to be that we would be able to get back on track and for us to maybe get the jump-start on other countries,” said federal Labor MP Anika Wells, from Queensland.

“It comes down to, I think, the Prime Minister’s judgement about the vaccines that he chose, the numbers of those doses and why.

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“When the UK, the US, chose other pathways like Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.”

Asked by host Hamish Macdonald if she was saying the Australian government had “backed the wrong horse”, she responded in the affirmative.

“We’ve been saying since last year, we need more horses in the race. We need five or six different vaccines.”

Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman refuted the claim Australia did not have enough vaccine options and said the government had invested in five.

But Indigenous lawyer Teela Reid also said the government had failed and accused them of being incompetent before also saying they had really failed First Nations people.

“I think the country needs options available to be vaccinated,” Ms Reid said.

“It has been absolutely the people who have come together and kept us safe, locked down and done the right thing — and I just think that, you know, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the majority of us are under 50.

“I think that it’s just been completely reckless and unacceptable in a developed country that we are here now and we’re still waiting for the option to be vaccinated.”

While Ms Reid and Ms Wells took the Prime Minister to task over the rollout, other panellists, journalist Antoinette Lattouf and Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Martyn Iles, felt the slow rollout was a blessing in disguise when it came to not too many Australians receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Ms Lattouf said this was a good problem to have while Mr Iles said the pivot in the vaccine strategy was not a massive problem before calling on people to leave people who have vaccine hesitancy alone.

“We don’t need to manufacture a crisis over the vaccine when we just don’t have one, ” Mr Iles said.

“It’s turning out that there’s some benefits of watching the rest of the world go just a little bit ahead of us.

“There are people in the community who have vaccine hesitancy and feel as though they, in good conscience, can’t take the vaccine.

“I actually want to go in to bat for them, I think we can respect someone’s conscience and achieve public health outcomes possibly at the same time.

“Everyone who wants it should get it [but] there’ll be some people who don’t want it, I reckon leave them alone, because the protection of conscience matters.”

‘Melanin count doesn’t change my access to truth’

Issues of gender bias in the halls of Parliament have been front and centre of late and one issue that has been raised is quotas.

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Most of the Q+A panel was for the possible introduction of them except for Mr Iles, who drew scorn for, as he put it, being “the stereotypical white guy”.

“Quotas say a couple of things,” Mr Iles said.

“Some of them might be good, but some of them I’m concerned about.

“One of the things it says is that a parliament that is majority man or majority women, or majority one race or another cannot govern in the common interest, cannot govern for the common good, cannot actually seek after what is right and true.

“The melanin count in my skin doesn’t change my access to truth, it doesn’t change my ability to do good.”

It was then that Ms Lattouf immediately called him out.

“But it changes your lived experience,” she said.

“It changes your lens, it changes where you are in terms of privilege.

“It doesn’t mean that you can’t have empathy, it doesn’t mean that you’re not clever and good at your job but you don’t have skin in the game when it comes to women’s issues, when it comes to Indigenous issues.

Regardless of quotas, Ms Reid said they were not the major issue and said other issues should first be examined.

“If you look at the experience of some women at the top, take for example Julia Gillard, that was a horrendous experience to witness as a young woman, but also I can’t even imagine what she’s experienced, and that’s looking at a white woman,” she said.

“I wouldn’t even want to know what a black woman experiences in those contexts.”

Iles defends ACL support of Folau

Mr Iles, who has long been a staunch supporter of former rugby league and union star Israel Folau, featured prominently throughout the show.

In 2019, Mr Iles stood side-by-side with Folau and even helped launch a fund to support the then-rugby star in his legal battle with Rugby Australia after fundraising site GoFundMe pulled down his page asking for financial help for the fight.

Rugby Australia said they had sacked Folau for breaching their social media code of conduct for religious posts he made which also preached homophobic views, before the sides eventually settled.

This week, the Australian Christian Lobby spent a large sum of money on an advertisement in The Daily Telegraph to pressure the NRL into allowing Folau to return to rugby league.

Mr Iles was asked to defend that use of money and his relationship with Folau and the ongoing support he is receiving from the ACL.

Mr Iles began by saying Folau had been misrepresented in the media.

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“The media have repeatedly said that Israel condemned homosexuals to hell, that is not the overall point of the post that he made.

“What he said was that sinners are destined for judgement, and yes, Christians understand that as hell … but then he turned to the other side of the coin and he said, ‘and forgiveness awaits to all who repent and put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ’.

“He said all of that in his post. Either you believe both sides of that coin — in which case, you are free, you have condemnation and salvation, you have judgement and release, you have repentance, you have faith — or you believe neither side.

Mr Iles rejected a comment by Ms Latouff that Folau had spread hate, saying that was not his motive.

But Mr Zimmerman, who in 2015 became Australia’s first openly gay MP, said that was in his view not the case with Folau.

“I’m not a religious person, but I was brought up in a religious family in the Uniting Church. It may not have been about hate, but it was certainly about love.

Mr Iles then went on to take aim at Rugby Australia and accused them of lying during the 2019 battle with Folau.

“He did not break a contract or a clause, if he did, it would have been relied upon by the tribunal that disciplined him.

“It wasn’t relied on because it didn’t exist.

“That’s a lie that was put out, I believe, by Rugby Australia to try and ruin his reputation.”

Watch the full episode of Q+A on iview.

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Federal government’s COVID vaccine rollout slower than most by international standards


Australia’s vaccination rollout has been too slow and we need to get on with it, immunisation expert Professor Robert Booy has said.

The infectious diseases expert, from the vaccine advocacy group Immunisation Coalition, said the planning strategy for deploying the vaccine across the country needed to be “greatly improved.”

The federal government has been widely criticised for delays in the vaccination program, with almost 842,000 doses being administered since the program began.

On Thursday, there were 79,000 vaccinations delivered, a daily record.

Professor Booy said GPs, nurses, and pharmacists delivered 17 million doses of flu vaccine in a few months last year.

“We’ve got the model already,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“Invariably we started slowly, but by international standards we started slower than most.”

Professor Booy said the states needed more autonomy once they had the vaccine.

“I don’t want to quibble — I just want to get on with it,” he said. 

“There is a way forward — we certainly have to do better. But I’m not into finger-pointing — I’m into saying let’s get on with it.”

In the United States, about 1.5 million people are being vaccinated every day.  

“At least we could emulate them and copy them at our level, which would be 100,000 doses a day and then we could build up from there,” he said.

He said people wanted to know where they could get the vaccine.

Over Easter, he spoke to a number of people who had to ring three or four GP clinics to find out where the vaccine was available.

“This is people in their 70s who are high priority. They’re in phase 1b and they should be able to access vaccine as soon as feasible,” Professor Booy said.

The biggest concern, said Professor Booy, was if a new highly transmissible variant became more pervasive across the country. 

A man in his 40s is in hospital in South Australia in critical condition with the South African variant.  

Behaviour change and our COVID-free status could put more people at risk.

“So many are loving that the fact that Australia is free of COVID, essentially. And they’re loving the fact they can be with their friends again and hug and kiss,” he said.

“But we’re going to spread virus if it gets out.

“So the combination of complacency, behaviour change and the possibility of the virus mutating to a more transmissible form is something that should concern us and therefore we should concentrate on how best to distribute the vaccine.”

There are also concerns about the safety of AstraZeneca vaccine after a man in his 40s was admitted to hospital in Melbourne with a rare blood-clotting condition which medical officials said was likely linked to the vaccine.

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Labor preselects Marion Scrymgour to contest Lingiari at next federal election


Northern Land Council chief executive Marion Scrymgour has been preselected by Labor to contest the federal electorate of Lingiari following the retirement of party stalwart Warren Snowdon.

Mr Snowdon, who had been involved in politics for more than 30 years, announced in December that he would not be recontesting the vast Northern Territory seat at the next election.

“It’s time to roll up my swag and move on,” he said at the time.

On Thursday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese confirmed Ms Scrymgour had won the preselection battle for the seat.

“Marion Scrymgour is an inspirational woman and will be an exceptional candidate for Lingiari in the Northern Territory,” Mr Albanese said.

Ms Scrymgour was the first Indigenous woman elected to the Northern Territory parliament.

“She was the Labor party deputy chief minister of the Northern Territory from November 2007 until February 2009, and was the highest-ranked Indigenous woman in government in Australia’s history,” Mr Albanese said.

Labor’s Warren Snowdon was re-elected in Lingiari at the last election with a margin of 5.5 per cent.(

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She retired from politics in 2012, and went on to run the Wurli Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service in Katherine and was the chair of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance in the NT.

For the past two years, she has headed the Northern Land Council, becoming the first woman to lead one of the NT’s four Aboriginal land councils.

Mr Albanese said she was preselected with “overwhelming support” in a rank-and-file ballot.

“Marion Scrymgour is an experienced and committed community leader and will be a formidable addition to the Labor team,” he said.

Mr Snowdon defeated CLP candidate Jacinta Price in the 2019 election, securing 55.5 per cent of the vote after preferences.

The seat of Lingiari covers 1,348,158 square kilometres, or 99.99 per cent of the NT, as well as the Christmas and Cocos Islands.

The Country Liberal Party has delayed its preselection process for Lingiari until June.

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Federal carbon-offset proposal will likely give illusion of progress, even as it increases emissions


This column is an opinion by Nicholas Rivers, Mark Jaccard and Kathryn Harrison. Rivers is the Canada Research Chair in Climate and Energy Policy at the University of Ottawa, and a member of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices. Jaccard is director of the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University and a lead author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Harrison is a Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia, and a member of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices advisory panel. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

The federal government recently issued a consultation paper on one of its proposed climate change policies. If implemented, this policy is likely to increase carbon emissions, perhaps substantially.

Sound confusing? Welcome to the world of carbon offsets.

In theory, introducing a carbon offset system to the existing carbon-reduction mandates for large emitters is a clever idea.

With an offset system, a firm that finds it costly to comply with the emissions mandate can pay another, unregulated actor, like a farmer or forest manager, to reduce emissions in its stead. Ideally, the same environmental target is achieved at a lower cost, creating an economic benefit to both offset buyers and sellers.

Consider the example of a steel plant that wants to increase production, which would in turn increase its emissions. If there’s no offset system, the steel plant cannot increase emissions because of the regulatory policy. If, however, a carbon offset system is introduced, the steel firm might comply with the regulation by paying a forest manager to store carbon in the forest, “offsetting” the increased emissions of the steel plant.

Introducing the offset system as a way of complying with the regulation in theory has no overall impact on total emissions, instead just shifting who reduces emissions.

What could go wrong? A lot.

Unfortunately, “no overall impact” on the environment is likely to be a best-case scenario. In the real world it is much more likely that introducing carbon offsets to an existing regulation will cause overall emissions to increase.

This is because many offset credits granted to unregulated sources do not reflect real or permanent emission reductions. In these cases, unregulated actors receive an offset credit but may reduce emissions by less than a full tonne of carbon. On the other side, regulated firms that purchase an offset credit are able to increase their emissions by one full tonne of carbon. This trade leads to an overall increase in emissions.

The fundamental problem is that offsets provide credits for “emission reductions,” which (unlike emissions themselves) are inherently unobservable.

Establishing how much a forest manager or farmer has reduced emissions, for example, requires us to ask what their emissions would have been without the carbon offset. And that’s an extremely difficult question to answer accurately.

It’s a bit like paying people to reduce their emissions by forgoing air travel. It’s hard to know who is genuinely cutting back on air travel, and who is simply exaggerating the number of transatlantic flights they were planning in order to get paid for not taking flights that they’d never really intended to take in the first place.

Early carbon offsets, like the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism, answered that hypothetical question on a case-by-case basis, and retrospective studies show that most of the projects that were awarded carbon offsets would have happened anyway, and so weren’t additional emissions reductions.

More recent offset systems use a standardized approach to determine eligibility, but these also face problems.

In 2002, for example, Alberta authorized carbon offsets to farmers adopting lower-emission “no-till” practices. As shown in the figure below, however, such practices were already becoming widespread before these credits were introduced in Alberta, as well as in neighbouring Saskatchewan, which didn’t have an offset system. Just as in the case of our hypothetical transatlantic flyer, most of these credits were paid for actions that would have taken place even without the offset credits.

Changes to low- and zero-tillage practices in Alberta and Saskatchewan, based on data from Statistics Canada. (Statistics Canada/Nicholas Rivers)

As such, it is likely that most of these credits — “by far the most widely used offset protocol” in Alberta’s system — did not truly reflect additional emission reductions. That means the sale of these credits into Alberta’s industrial carbon regulation system has likely led to substantial increases in overall emissions, since industrial emitters in Alberta were allowed to increase their own emissions by buying these credits.

A similar phenomenon occurred in British Columbia, where offset credits were authorized for improved forest management and measures taken to avoid deforestation. B.C.’s auditor general found that emission reductions from forest conservation were significantly overstated, with a substantial fraction of offset credits not representing real emission reductions.

Also worrisome is the fact that forest and soil carbon storage is likely not permanent. If offset credits are authorized for activities that only temporarily store carbon, the result will again be an overall increase in emissions, because the offset credit will allow regulated firms to increase their own emissions, and these emissions effectively remain in the atmosphere permanently. A non-permanent emission reduction used to offset a permanent emission increase leads to an eventual increase in carbon in the atmosphere.

Carbon offsets can also create unintended consequences.

For example, offset credits were available under the Clean Development Mechanism for reducing emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), human-made gases used as refrigerants that have an especially large impact on climate. The value of these credits was so large that some firms produced HFCs for the sole purpose of later destroying them and obtaining offset credits. Carbon offsets ended up encouraging the very activity they sought to curtail, increasing emissions and wasting money.

Similarly, analysis suggests that carbon offsets for methane capture in California may lead mines to continue operating for longer than they otherwise would have in order to cash in on the credits — again incentivizing the very action the offsets seek to avoid.

WATCH | Supreme Court rules in favour of carbon tax:

As the Liberal government savours the Supreme Court decision in favour of the federal carbon tax, the three provinces that fought against it figure out their options and businesses examine the ramifications. 4:45

Overall, prior real-world experience with carbon offsets points to the conclusion that a one tonne carbon offset often does not reflect a full one tonne emission reduction. Since regulated firms that purchase carbon offsets can increase their emissions by one full tonne, introducing an offset system to industrial carbon regulations leads to an increase in emissions.

Canada’s proposed Federal Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Offset System starts with four offset types — forest management, soil carbon storage, landfill gas management, and refrigerant management. As described above, these are the same types of activities that have failed to produce credible additional emission reductions in prior applications.

The introduction of an offset system as a compliance mechanism for industrial emission regulations will therefore likely increase Canadian emissions, as industrial firms procure offset credits that don’t reflect real reductions and use them to increase their own emissions.

Two reforms could help alleviate these problems.

First, offset credits used as a compliance option for regulated firms should be restricted to activities that are near-certain to deliver permanent, additional emission reductions. The list of such actions is small (and costly), focused especially on activities that capture and permanently store greenhouse gases underground.

Second, activities such as forest and soil carbon sequestration, which can generate uncertain but meaningful emission reductions, should be encouraged directly using government regulation or incentives. Removing these activities from the industrial offset system will ensure that Canada’s industrial greenhouse gas mandates achieve the emission reductions for which they are designed.

Offset systems financially benefit both buyers and sellers, and thus tend to be popular with the businesses community. However, without major reforms, Canada’s newest climate policy is likely to give the illusion of progress, even as it increases carbon emissions.


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Facebook says it’s preparing again to fend off disinformation during a federal election


Tech giant Facebook is beginning to ramp up for the next federal election with plans to prevent its platform from being used to spread misinformation that could disrupt the election campaign.

Kevin Chan, global director and head of public policy for Facebook Canada, said he doesn’t know when the next federal election will take place, but his company is getting ready.

“We are already preparing internally for an election, whenever that will happen,” Chan told CBC News. “We have also had outreach externally from public authorities that we have worked with in the past, in the 2019 election, to also get ready.”

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government isn’t scheduled to go to the polls again until October 2023, Trudeau acknowledged in an interview with a Montreal radio station in January that his party could find itself in an election in the coming months.

In the lead-up to the 2019 vote, the federal government set up an elaborate system to detect attempts to interfere in the Canadian election by spreading misinformation or disinformation. In the end, officials concluded that no significant attempts were detected.

Chan said that Facebook never completely dismantled the core team it assembled for the 2019 election. It has remained in place for the provincial elections that have happened since then.

In the 2019 election, Facebook’s team in Canada monitored the platform for signs of people trying to use it to spread misinformation or disinformation as part of an election integrity initiative that also included a cyber threats crisis e-mail line.

“We are currently building out the team to be ready for an election whenever it comes,” said Chan.

Chan’s comments come as the Trudeau government deals with the aftermath of an Ontario Superior Court ruling that struck down the section of Canada’s election law prohibiting someone from making false claims about a candidate or a political leader during an election. The judge ruled that the section was an unreasonable restriction on charter rights to free speech.

‘Drawing these lines is hard for anyone’

Chan said the ruling underscores the challenges involved in deciding what’s unacceptable on social media platforms.

“At Facebook, we are moderating content every day, and with that will come controversy,” Chan explained. “I think you can appreciate that for any decision we make, there will be some people who say we took too much down and then there will be other people who will say we left too much up.

“And so I think that this is something that we recognize is hard and I think that the court decision you saw is a recognition that drawing these lines is hard for anyone.”

Chan’s comments come in advance of his planned appearance Monday before the House of Commons Canadian heritage committee.

The committee, which originally summoned Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg, wants to know more about the dispute that erupted between the company and Australia after that country adopted new rules to pressure the tech giant into paying media organizations for news stories shared on their platforms.

Facebook and Australia finally reached an agreement — but not before Facebook briefly shut down access to news stories in Australia.

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault is working on legislation to address similar issues in Canada.

More money for media outlets

In advance of Monday’s hearing, Facebook will announce today that it will spend an additional $8 million over the next three years to help Canadian news media.

Half of that sum will extend to 2024 Facebook’s existing deal with the Canadian Press, which has allowed the news service to hire ten journalists. The company said the other half will go to small, local media organizations and to “increase the strength of under-represented voices in journalism” — although the company has not yet said what it means by under-represented voices.

Facebook Canada’s global director and head of public policy Kevin Chan will announce new money for Canadian news organizations in advance of testifying before the House of Commons Canadian Heritage committee Monday. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Chan said Facebook is also looking to negotiate commercial deals with Canadian news organizations to provide material for parts of its platform, such as its COVID-19 information centre or its climate science information centre.

As Facebook argued in its dispute with Australia, Chan said news organizations benefit from having their stories shared on Facebook because it generates page views that translate into revenue.

Chan argued Australia’s initial proposal didn’t reflect the reality of how the internet and Facebook work, and said Canada appears to be taking a somewhat different approach.

“I’ve heard others refer to the ambition of doing a made-in-Canada approach,” he said. “And I think that ambition will presumably mean getting to a better outcome, an outcome where you have frameworks that are based on evidence, that are based on facts, that recognize the value that the platforms provide to publishers and that allows us to work collaboratively together to ensure the long term viability of news in Canada.”

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather says he wants to know more about how Facebook’s algorithms lead users to illegal or hateful content. (CBC)

While Chan has been summoned to testify on behalf of Facebook regarding the events in Australia, committee members say he will face questions on other aspects of the company’s operations.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said he also wants to know more about how Facebook’s algorithms lead users to content that is illegal, violent or hateful, and what the company is doing about it.

NDP MP Heather McPherson said she’s concerned about hate speech and wants to know whether Chan misled the committee the last time he appeared when he said that Facebook removes anything that violates its community standards.

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca

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