Free Speech * Conditions Apply by Fukt by Chris Christian (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Free Speech * Conditions Apply by Fukt by Chris Christian (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Freedom of Expression Under Attack: The Liberal Government Moves to Have the CRTC Regulate All User Generated Content

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage last month and was asked by Liberal MP Tim Louis about “misinformation that somehow this [Bill C-10] would control, or regulate, or censor social media.” Guilbeault responded:

In the case of YouTube, for example, we’re not particularly interested in what people…you know, when my great-uncle posts pictures of his cats, that’s not what we’re interested in as a legislator.
When YouTube or Facebook act as a broadcaster, then the legislation would apply to them and the CRTC would define how that would happen. But really, we’re not interested in user-generated content. We are interested in what broadcasters are doing.

Guilbeault was referring to a specific exception in Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill, that excluded user generated content from the scope of broadcast regulation. I previously blogged about the exception, noting its narrow scope. The provision states:

This Act does not apply in respect of

(a) programs that are uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service by a user of the service – who is not the provider of the service or the provider’s affiliate, or the agent or mandatary of either of them – for transmission over the Internet and reception by other users of the service; and
(b) online undertakings whose broadcasting consists only of such programs.

Without this provision, anything uploaded by users – whether cat videos or kids dancing in the kitchen – would be treated by Canadian law as a “program” and subject to CRTC regulation. Government officials confirmed this today at the hearing with Owen Ripley stating:

Ms. Dabrusin has signalled the government intends to repeal, or suggest a repeal, of Section 4.1 altogether, meaning that there would no longer be any exclusion for social media services at all. For the benefit of the committee, in our previous sessions, the committee upheld the exclusion for users of social media companies. In other words, when you or I upload something to YouTube or some other sharing service, we will not be considered broadcasters for the purposes of the Act. The CRTC couldn’t call us before them and we couldn’t be subject to CRTC hearings.

But if the exclusion is removed – if 4.1 is struck down – the programming we upload to Youtube, that programming that we place on that service would be subject to regulation moving forward, but would be the responsibility of Youtube or whatever the sharing service is. The programming that is uploaded could be subject to discoverability requirements or certain obligations like that.

If the way forward to is maintain the exclusion for individual users but to strike down the exclusion for social media companies, that means that all the programming that is on those services would be subject to the Act regardless of whether it was put there by an affiliate or a mandatary of the company.

Read that again: “all the programming that is on those services would be subject to the Act.” Despite the warning, Parliamentary Secretary Julie Dabrusin put forward a motion to remove the exclusion, which gained the support of the committee.

This is a remarkable and dangerous step in an already bad piece of legislation. The government believes that it should regulate all user generated content, leaving it to regulator to determine on what terms and conditions will be attached the videos of millions of Canadians on sites like Youtube, Instagram, TikTok, and hundreds of other services. The Department of Justice’s own Charter analysis of the bill specifically cites the exclusion to argue that it does not unduly encroach on freedom of expression rights. Without the exclusion, Bill C-10 adopts the position that a regulator sets the rules for free speech online. As Emily Laidlaw tweeted, human rights apply online and offline.

Last week I wrote that the Liberal government had become the most anti-Internet government in Canadian history. But today’s vote is even worse. By removing the user generated content exclusion, Bill C-10 represents an unconscionable attack on the free expression rights of Canadians. It must be defeated.


  1. What are you so afraid of man? That Rebel and Infowars won’t get to pollute the series of tubes with impunity anymore, using the nonexistent Canadian First Amendment as a shield? Guilbeault is an environmentalist and he should be applauded for taking out the trash. If you’re uploading cat videos you shouldn’t be worried about this. If you’re uploading Mein Kampf, well… you know who you are.

    • Limen Henderson says:

      You’re such an idiot, that i am lost for words. You fail to see the bigger picture. If you disagree with rebel news or alex jones etc that’s your business – not my business nor this puke governments business. Ol adolf would be proud of you due to your mindset. Idiot.

      • lol adolf would be proud that I want to throw nat zees off the internet? what are you smoking man, that’s the fox MAGA go to for everything, face it cons just want to have the freedom to pollute the “market of ideas” with hate and disinfo like tucker and their orange hero. freedom is not absolute in canada, it allows restrictions for the interest of a just society, trudeau father made sure of that. don’t like it go to the states where you can call obama or floyd n**** all day and not face any consequences. go look at con social it’s trash all they do is puke up Q stuff calling the pm a pedo because of the child care budget. lies that the cons put out there last election about when he was a teacher. you know that someone tried to kill the pm last summer because they kept being fed Q stuff about him being a communist etc.? it’s not just about disagreeing with rebel and infowars it’s about not letting them keep radicalizing people to the point they go JFK on the pm or do an attack like MAGA did at the capital or have another incel attack in toronto. look up stochastic terrorism, do you want ISIS to have the right to “free speech” and if not, ask why you want rebel to… can’t qwhite figure out the difference, hm…?

        • So Trudeau has denied being a Communist? Do you have a link for that? I’d just like to verify it. I don’t want to call him a Communist if he’s not, but I intend to keep calling him Communist if he is.

          It’s the difference between truth and falsehood, something you seem to have trouble distinguishing between.

        • Another Commenter says:

          Well it’s a good thing that they’ll only ever use these laws against the bad people, and that there will never be a government that will abuse them.

          It wasn’t that long ago that we had a Conservative government that muzzled scientists to stop them from talking about climate change. Can you not see how these kinds of laws could very easily be abused by bad actors?

          What if Canada elects someone like Trump? Do you trust people like that with the power to control what people are allowed to post on YouTube? Doesn’t Canada already have hate speech laws to address people spreading hate online?

          While I agree that the unregulated nature of the internet has brought with it massive problems, it’s also worth pointing out that it has also made it impossible for governments to bury information that they’d rather we not find out about. Being born in the early 80’s, I’m old enough to remember when government broadcasting channels, and media conglomerates had almost complete control over the ideas that were allowed to be taken seriously, and the information we were allowed access to.

      • JamesHaIifax says:

        He doesn’t seem to understand; and neither do the other foIks in favour of censorship, that one day….they wiII come for him.

        AII one has to ask is this. “Is Justin Trudeau, or anyone in his cabinet smart enough to teII you what to think?”

        The answer is pretty obvious. Trudeau is a thin skinned narcassist who is tired of peopIe pointing out his many faiIings.
        He probabIy became thin-skinned due to the caustic chemicaI composition of the makeup he used to paint himseIf bIack and dance around Iike a chimp.

        • Fred van Vogt says:

          Censorship is just so wrong. Here’s a guy thinking it’s great provided they think like him. He’s already showing the dangerous side to this.

      • A very thoughtful, engaging and concise response. Thank you for contributing Limen.

    • Douglas Moore says:

      If you can,read that is, you should read Mein Kampf and you just might realize how bad this all really is. By the way, trying to label everyone with whom you disagree as nazi’s only illuminates your lack of intellect.

  2. Just to refute the nonsense above, we do have our own freedom of speech, in the Charter, and just as the SCOTUS placed the right of the press to abuse its freedoms above the hazard of censorship in Near v. Minnesota so should we, in the words of our PM, 100% never be in the business of deciding which news is true and which is fake.

    • The question is “do we want to have to deal with legitimate Section 2-based challenges to C-10 as presently organized in the first place?” If the answer is “no”, then we need to modify C-10 so that it complies with the Charter in both letter and spirit so as to avert the need for court challenges in the first place.

    • Annie, I can’t agree with you. In Canada even though it is in the Charter there are limits applied to what you can say. So long as the government can make a case before the SCOC that it is in the interests of society a law which restricts free speech can stand. And that doesn’t include the use of the “not-withstanding” clause.

      While in theory I agree with the deciding which news is true and which is fake statement you made, from what I’ve seen that is exactly what we are expecting from the social media sites. The problem is who decides what is false and what is true. In some cases it is subjective. In other cases something is declared false as it goes against the commonly agreed “fact”, even if the commonly agreed “fact” is wrong. An example I use on this is, imagine if 600 years ago something like Facebook existed. They would likely declare as fake news the idea that the earth is spherical as is was against the commonly agreed “fact” and ground any posts claiming that the earth is not flat.

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  4. Sok Puppette says:

    Any insight as to WHY they would want to do that?

    • It’s quite possible (and I’m being VERY generous with this one) that some people in the background are still trying to believe that the Internet is like cable TV and should be regulated as such. Mostly in a misguided effort to protect Canadian culture. It, at least, partly explains the link tax push. No one is stopping and bothering to think, “how will this affect smaller sites?” probably because some of them think Facebook, Amazon, and Google are the Internet.

      Obviously, the Internet is nothing like cable TV. It’s not a small handful of ultra rich producers beaming content to an audience that has nowhere else to turn to. It’s a borderless global phenomenon where the only real barrier is language. Further, it’s a two way interaction between the audience and content producers, not a passive entertainment medium. Anyone can be a content producer and it’s not a controlled entity which is the biggest reason why the Internet has thrived so well. It’s also why so many fiercely oppose censorship initiatives of any kind – it’s an assault on them.

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  7. This is Nazism you fool. What the hell do you think not being able to inform people is.

  8. Doesn’t Section 2.1 provide this exclusion?

    Exclusion — carrying on broadcasting undertaking
    (2.‍1) A person who uses a social media service to upload programs for transmission over the Internet and reception by other users of the service — and who is not the provider of the service or the provider’s affiliate, or the agent or mandatary of either of them — does not, by the fact of that use, carry on a broadcasting undertaking for the purposes of this Act.

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  10. Carmen Kazakoff-Lane says:

    The Liberal Party of Canada has a long record of trying to build up intellectual property bureaucracies. I am thinking about Access Copyright when I say this.

    Courts have taken the teeth out of Access Copyright’s threats by giving legal weight to the educational uses of copyrighted material under fair dealing. It is time they understood that this will also face charter challenges and they will lose.

    The CRTC’s mandate should not be to monitor user generated content. Everyone would much prefer that they focus on the high telecommunications costs in Canada.

  11. Regulate algorithms, not content. Allow people to post freely, subject to existing law.* Don’t allow Facebook & other mega-platforms to weaponize posts by selectively choosing what users see from their networks and boosting content beyond the amplification users would have given it, for commercial or any other purpose.

    *Get police and prosecutors to do their jobs and enforce existing laws against harassment, threatening and public mischief.

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