Quebec Ink

With new legislation, Steven Guilbeault will make few friends in Big Tech

MONTREAL — Steven Guilbeault, the minister of Canadian Heritage, doesn’t like Facebook much. The blue-hued social media platform is mentioned 34 times, almost always negatively, in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Guilbeault’s 2019 treatise on artificial intelligence. To wit: when it isn’t Hoovering data, helping elect the likes of Donald Trump or otherwise destroying humanity’s social fabric, Guilbeault says Facebook is busy hooking users on its product much as heroin ropes in addicts.

A longtime environmentalist, in 1993 Guilbeault co-founded Équiterre, one of the more prominent environmental-activism groups in Quebec. He wrote The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when he was a consultant for Quebec cleantech VC Cycle Capital Management. Nearly two years and one attempted U.S. insurrection later, Guilbeault now has the power to regulate the main target of his ire. And his sleeves are already rolled up.

In the next three weeks, Guilbeault will introduce wide-ranging legislation that he says will tame the hateful and at times violent excesses social media tends to engender. I spoke with him last week, and was able to extract a few details about what we (and Big Tech) can expect. It’s a doozy.

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