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How the Canadian Government Can Regulate AI for a Better Future

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has spurred a global conversation about its potential benefits and risks. As Canada grapples with how to regulate AI effectively, it faces unique challenges and opportunities. By examining the insights from various experts and industry leaders, this essay explores how the Canadian government can regulate AI to foster innovation while safeguarding public interest.

Background and Current Landscape

In December 2022, over 50 tech companies, universities, and startups formed the AI Alliance to address the rapid advances in AI technology. This coalition, led by IBM and Meta Platforms Inc., aims to navigate the complexities of AI regulation and implementation. Canada, often considered the “original home of AI” due to its pioneering researchers like Yoshua Bengio and Geoffrey Hinton, faces the challenge of translating its research prowess into commercial success.

Addressing Commercialization Challenges

One of the primary concerns highlighted by Abhishek Gupta, founder of the Montreal AI Ethics Institute, is Canada’s lag in commercializing AI research. Despite being a research hotspot, Canadian AI startups often struggle to scale due to limited venture capital and conservative investment approaches. Many talented Canadian AI professionals and entrepreneurs are lured to the U.S. by higher salaries and more aggressive funding opportunities.

To combat this, Canada needs to foster a more supportive environment for AI startups. This can be achieved by:

  1. Increasing Venture Capital Funding: Encouraging Canadian venture capital firms to take more risks and invest heavily in promising AI startups.
  2. Government Grants and Incentives: Providing grants and tax incentives for AI research and development to retain talent and stimulate innovation within the country.
  3. Supporting Scale-Up Initiatives: Creating programs to help startups transition from small-scale operations to global competitors.

Implementing Robust Regulatory Frameworks

As AI technology evolves, so too must the regulatory frameworks that govern it. Manav Gupta, vice-president and chief technology officer at IBM Canada, advocates for a tiered regulatory approach similar to those in the U.S. and the European Union. This means implementing regulations that scale with the risk associated with the AI application.

  1. Risk-Based Regulation: High-risk AI applications, such as those in healthcare or autonomous vehicles, should undergo rigorous testing and compliance checks. Lower-risk applications can be subject to lighter regulations, promoting innovation while ensuring safety.
  2. Transparency and Accountability: AI developers should be required to maintain transparency in their processes and algorithms. This includes regular audits and the publication of safety and fairness reports.
  3. Global Alignment: Canada’s AI regulations should align with international standards to prevent friction in global markets. This harmonization will make it easier for Canadian companies to compete internationally.

Promoting Open-Source AI

Kevin Chan of Meta emphasizes the importance of open-source AI as a means to democratize technology and foster innovation. Open-source AI allows developers to access, modify, and improve AI systems, accelerating technological advancements and ensuring a diverse range of solutions.

  1. Encouraging Open-Source Contributions: The government can provide incentives for companies and researchers to contribute to open-source AI projects.
  2. Balancing Risks and Benefits: While open-source AI poses security risks, such as potential misuse by malicious actors, the benefits of rapid innovation and broad accessibility outweigh these concerns. Effective security measures and vigilant monitoring can mitigate these risks.

Leveraging Public Sector Experience

Canada’s public sector can play a pivotal role in AI regulation and development. With its significant influence and resources, the government can lead by example in implementing and regulating AI.

  1. Public Sector AI Initiatives: Launching AI projects within government agencies can demonstrate best practices and set standards for private companies to follow.
  2. Public-Private Partnerships: Collaborations between government and private firms can drive AI innovation while ensuring adherence to ethical and regulatory standards.

Education and Workforce Development

As AI becomes increasingly integral to various sectors, Canada must ensure that its workforce is equipped with the necessary skills to thrive in an AI-driven economy.

  1. Educational Programs: Integrating AI and data science courses into school curricula and offering specialized programs in higher education institutions.
  2. Continuous Learning: Providing opportunities for current professionals to upskill through workshops, online courses, and certification programs.

Regulating AI effectively is crucial for Canada

Regulating AI effectively is crucial for Canada to maintain its leadership in AI research and development while ensuring public safety and ethical standards. By increasing venture capital funding, implementing robust regulatory frameworks, promoting open-source AI, leveraging public sector experience, and investing in education and workforce development, Canada can create a balanced AI ecosystem. This approach will not only foster innovation but also ensure that AI technologies are developed and deployed responsibly, benefiting society as a whole.

Why the Canadian Government’s Fight with Facebook is Detrimental

The Canadian government’s battle with Facebook over the Online News Act has led to significant unintended consequences, particularly affecting small local news outlets.

The Online News Act, introduced by the Canadian government, mandates that large social media companies compensate Canadian news organizations for their content shared on these platforms. While Google agreed to pay $73.6 million annually to Canadian news publishers, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, chose to block all news sharing on its platforms in Canada.

Impact on Small Local News Outlets

Small local news outlets, which heavily relied on Facebook to drive traffic to their websites, are the most adversely affected by this ban. These outlets often lack the resources to build a substantial online presence independently, making social media crucial for reaching their audience.

Rene J. Roy, co-founder of Wreckhouse Press in Newfoundland, highlights the devastating effect of the ban on small media businesses, stating that his publication lost 60% of its online presence and that their print readership plummeted. Roy’s experience underscores a broader trend, where the closure of local news outlets has accelerated. According to a study by Toronto Metropolitan University’s School of Journalism, 36 local news outlets shut down in the first 11 months of 2023 alone.

Unintended Consequences for Public Safety

The Facebook news ban also had dire consequences during the summer of 2023 when Canada experienced record wildfires. Residents, who had relied on Facebook for real-time updates and rescue information, found themselves cut off from these vital resources. This situation underscores how the ban has not only economic but also serious public safety implications.

The Incorrect Premise of the Legislation

Meta’s spokesperson argued that the Online News Act is based on a flawed premise. The legislation assumes that Meta unfairly benefits from news content shared on its platforms, whereas Meta contends that news outlets voluntarily share content on Facebook to expand their audience and improve their bottom line. An independent study by Reuters supported Meta’s stance, showing that the ban had little impact on Facebook’s user engagement in Canada.

Broader Implications for Journalism and Democracy

The ban has broader implications for journalism and democracy in Canada. Small, independent journalism outlets are particularly vulnerable, as they often lack alternative platforms to reach their audiences. Amy Romer, a freelance journalist, expresses her concerns about the future of independent journalism in light of these challenges. The inability to disseminate news through popular social media channels can lead to a less informed public and weakened democratic discourse.

Potential Solutions and the Path Forward

To mitigate these adverse effects, several measures could be considered:

  1. Government Support for Local Journalism: The Canadian government could provide direct subsidies or grants to local news outlets to help them build and maintain their online presence independently of social media giants.
  2. Alternative Platforms: Encouraging the development and use of alternative social media platforms that prioritize news sharing and public interest content could reduce reliance on platforms like Facebook.
  3. Negotiation and Compromise: The government and social media companies could engage in further negotiations to reach a compromise that supports both the financial needs of news outlets and the operational model of social media platforms.
  4. Public Awareness Campaigns: Raising public awareness about the importance of supporting local journalism and the challenges it faces could help drive direct audience engagement and financial support.

Unintended negative consequences

The ongoing conflict between the Canadian government and Facebook over the Online News Act has had several unintended negative consequences, particularly for small local news outlets. By blocking news sharing, Facebook has inadvertently cut off vital information channels, impacting public safety and the viability of independent journalism. It is crucial for all stakeholders to find a balanced solution that supports the sustainability of local news outlets while respecting the operational dynamics of social media platforms. Only through cooperative efforts can the broader interests of public safety, informed citizenry, and a vibrant democracy be maintained.

GoFundMe Cancels $10m of Truckers Convoy Donations

GoFundMe, California based crowdfunding platform that allows people to raise money, has announced that they will not release $10m dollars that was raised by supporers for Truckers Convoy also known as Freedom Convoy, that protests vaccine mandates and Covid-19 measures.

Organizers of the convoy said they had hoped that with these funds they would be able to keep the protest for a long time.

The money was supposed to be used for food, lodging and gas.

GoFundMe said the decision was made because they think that the convoy promotes hate and violence. Company said they will refund all the donations automatically.

Following a review of relevant facts and multiple discussions with local law enforcement and city officials, this fundraiser is now in violation of our Terms of Service (Term 8, which prohibits the promotion of violence and harassment) and has been removed from the platform.

Gofundme Statement

Gofundme initially released $1m to the convoy, but has decided after pressure to cancel the release of the other $10m.

Convoy fed up with Gofundme has asked supporters to donate via social media and GiveSendGo.

Jim Watson, Ottawa mayor, has begged other crowdfunding sources to stop the donations

Ottawa officials point out to several protesters brandished Confederate flags, and another flag had a swastika drawn on it. While branding those flags is frowned upon, neither are illegal in Canada.

Elon Musk was furious with Gofundme for withholding $10m from the convoy’s anti vaccine rally. He also called the  GoFundMe “Professional Thieves.”

Ron DeSantis, Florida governor, said that what GoFundMe did was unacceptable and that he will work with state’s attorney general to investigate the company.

Sidewalk Labs Comes to its Final Adjourn

The urban subsidiary of Google has reached its final blow. The chief executive, Dan Doctoroff, recently revealed that he had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. As a result, he announced stepping down from his position to dedicate his time towards raising funds for ALS research. 

This unfortunate news, along with the company’s detachment from a smart city-building project in Toronto a year and a half ago, leads to the eventual disbanding. Here is how it all started:

The Back Story

Sidewalk aimed to revolutionize design thinking and urban planning. Initially, the company hosted a contest among cities to see perfect new regulations.  

Sidewalk then signed a contract with Waterfront Toronto to build a small 12-acre community with high-profiled infrastructure near the downtown. However, it earned a bad reputation as the company kept defying the contract by utilizing more land and power than initially decided. 

Canadians also began having doubts about the data collection that could jeopardize citizens’ privacy. Moreover, people raised concerns about the policymaking process of Canada’s government after this debacle. It gained more negative traction when eminent Canadian urban planners, public service, and investment experts were fired or resigned from their jobs.

The beginning of the Downfall

All of this disarray did not serve well for the company. The global pandemic’s economic uncertainty and dictum from Waterfront Toronto led to the eventual Toronto smart-city project cancelation in May 2020. 

Moreover, developer Stephen Diamond got promoted as Waterfront Toronto’s chair during this challenging time. Diamond spent his tenure negotiating with Mr. Doctoroff, and he was disappointed to realize that Sidewalk Labs had a vision much larger than initially proposed.

Later, the company focused on developing individual products for cities such as smart parking-spot availability and a health care platform worth more than a billion dollars now. However, after Sidewalk fired most of its Toronto staff upon the project’s cancellation, it became lower-profile. The top deputies deserted their positions that sent the company spiraling into chaos.

Way Forward

Mr. Doctoroff revealed that there had been a shift of most of the Sidewalk’s products that are in the development stage under Google’s umbrella. Sidewalk’s remaining top two deputies will be overseeing their development from now. 

Another active project focused on constructing tall buildings made from wood was given to another company. But, unfortunately, there hasn’t been any news release about the urban products in the making yet.

Reddit Opens an Office in Toronto

Canadians, here is some good news for you— another famous social platform has now opened its office in Toronto. 

One of the leading digital forums, Reddit, is looking to expand its global presence to recruit a more diverse engineering and community team. So what could be a better place to do it than Canada, Reddit’s third-largest market.

This digital company began with a short-term hiring plan with ten employees. However, there are rumors that Reddit might be opening more job positions soon for skillful individuals to be part of the official team,

Reddit’s Competition in Canada

Recently, many digital companies have set up their offices in Canada and have contributed significantly towards providing employment. For example, Twitter Inc, Pinterest, and TikTok have boosted their hiring rate in Toronto. 

In addition, an Indian tech-consulting firm— HCL Technologies— has vowed to hire 2000 more employees in the next three years, while TikTok has promised to hire 500 more people.

Reddit has intense competition existing in Canada. As the company scales across Canada, it focuses on building the team quickly. To do that, they are hoping to set the bar for recruitment exceptionally high by hiring the top talent and building a strong talent brand.

Reddit Closing the Distances

Reddit’s new office’s purpose is to encourage a strong relationship between the company and Canada, where a large userbase of Reddit lives. The company recently released that Reddit’s Canadian user base is growing at a rate of more than 40% every year. 

According to the data collected by the company, not every Reddit user is part of other social media platforms. For example, more than 20% of Canadian Reddit users don’t use Facebook, more than 35% don’t use Twitter, and almost 70% said they don’t use TikTok.

The company did not reveal the number of Canadian userbases. However, Reddit is striving to increase the userbase in the country with the help of the Canadian community team.

A New Approach

Reddit has enjoyed being the “front page of the internet” for a long time. The subreddit threads have helped millions of people in all aspects of life— from students to teachers to Wall Street corporates. In addition, it helped in making public opinion matter.

However, public-led movements often have flaws. Reddit is now taking a new approach towards curbing the negative aspects of the website. The company’s chief operating officer, Jen Wong, said, “We take safely, harassment and misinformation really, really seriously on the platform.”

Reddit is dedicated to bringing a positive change to the world. By experimenting and trying new strategies, it is expanding, slowly but surely, around the globe. The hope is to leave its impact by working closely with communities.

Robots in Toronto: Future or Modern Distractions

In the past two years, the world has observed significant changes due to the Pandemic. Technology has taken a shift in paradigm with the help of continuous advancements and researches in AI, making people’s lives easier and bearable. 

New apps and gadgets have been introduced. Along with that, robots have also been seen quite a lot managing chores that were once manhandled. But due to some petitions in recent times, it feels like not many people are happy with this innovation—especially ones with disabilities. 

Petition Against Pink Delivery Robots

Tiny Miles – a company that deals with little pink delivery robots, is on the verge of losing its business. They have been accused of creating a menace on the roads with their robots. David Lepofsky is a retired lawyer and a teacher. He feels that these new robots running around on the pavements make it difficult to commute daily. As David has been blind most of his life, accessibility is a major problem for him. He fears that regardless of the laws created by the government, it’s not helping much since there is no implementation. 

Tiny Miles Robots Are Safe And Tested

CEO-  Ignacio Tartavull has made sure that his robots are safe after hearing Lepofsky’s concerns. They do malfunction sometimes, but those issues are efficiently resolved. Also, a team is designated to pick up the robot if it malfunctions. 

In addition, the robots used for food delivery weigh only 4.5 kg. They also have a friendly speed of 6 km/h, which prevents pedestrians from getting into accidents. He has personally tested these robots to ensure maximum protection. 

Pilot project for robots on the street

The Ministry of Transportation in Canada initiated a pilot project. This project allows companies to operate their robots in public for delivery services and snow shoveling. This project will be monitored by cameras at all times. 

The pilot is supposed to measure the safety of putting robots out in the open. These robots are instructed to be labeled clearly with the company’s name. Also, they should have a speed limit of 10 km/h on sidewalks and 20 km/h on bike lanes. They must weigh less than 125 kgs with 74 cm width. But before the pilot project even ran, pink robots were already operating and are now petitioned to be banned. 

Final Word

According to the city council’s votes, Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee will make final decisions regarding the ban of pink delivery robots. Tiny miles has asked to file a petition. Now only the people can decide the fate of these little robots.

Combating Rising Cybercrimes in Canada

Ever since the pandemic began, the threat of hacking and cyber crimes rose at an alarming rate. Many people and even official sites were hacked which posed a threat regarding the usage of online platforms and the information people provided. It was even a big question mark since Covid-19 made everyone switch to working virtually.

Manitoba worked with Ottawa and temporarily took down their websites in order to boost their protection against cybercrimes and hacking, especially ransomware attacks, which is on the rise in Canada and Canada was in top countries who were the target of cyberattacks.

Cyber Threats and Risks Faced

Sami Khoury, head of the government-run Canadian Centre for Cyber Security said that Canada is among the top countries that has been impacted by cybercrime and the Government needs to advise a sound system for protection against cybercrime faced. The hackers are getting advanced and the state needs to protect themselves accordingly.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made it easy for hackers to advance in their malicious activities, since the entire workload has left the protected and encrypted computer systems of offices to the unprotected systems used at homes. Khoury said that hackers have honed in on system vulnerabilities in the shift to at-home work if this increase and lack of protection against cyberattacks can lead to national and international level threat. 

Not long ago Newfoundland and Labrador’s health-care system faced a major cyber attack of ransomware. Health-care workers were forced to use paper and manual systems for the first time in decades. This attack further put the residents and general public at the risk of identity frauds. The hackers hack data and in return they ask for a hefty amount in order to give the data back.

How do Hackers get a hold of your Data

Federal data shows the average ransom amount paid by the public and private sector soared to $300,000 in 2019 from $25,000 in early 2019 due to work from home shifting. The payment in fall levelled about $175,000. Ransomware hack usually starts from phishing. The victim gets an email which seems like a trusted source and the link(s) in that email that directs someone to the login site of an agency or a government’s site. The hacker gets a hold of the username and password. Such emails may also contain invoice or a receipt which contain viruses.

In such cases, the hackers try to steal as much data as they can and then encrypt the data, locking out the original owner of the data, threatening them for selling the data unless some amount is paid. Then a ransom is demanded which is usually paid in crypto (to protect the anonymity of the hacker).

What is Being done for Protection?

Amid the rising cyber attacks, Khoury’s federal group issued a guidance for the prevention and lookout for ransomware attacks.

Manitoba cyber-security expert Eddie Philips said that the companies and the government are not concerned enough about the threat that cyberattacks pose. He said that companies must have a recovery time objective (RTO). He further said that large firms need disaster recovery plans which include backup databases which workers can use.

Health and Manitoba governments said they had a back-up database and recovery targets which are divided among the departments. They also revamped up their cyber security system that helped secure the system of their workers among the networks.

Alot is being done by the government to combat the rising threat of cybercrimes. Pandemic changed the entire network of how people worked and interacted. Philips said that training is essential to prevent cyberattacks and every company and firm should take measures not only to protect their systems but to also train their employees about possible threats and how to prevent them. Sometimes, hackers just need a little window open through which they can invade and steal essential information. Education and training can help prevent cyberattacks.