Earlier tonight, I posted on the government’s attack on freedom of expression with its astonishing plans to regulate all user generated content posted to sites such as Youtube, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. But the danger doesn’t stop there. For months, the government insisted that it was not going to regulate video games as part of Bill C-10. In fact, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault told the House of Commons:
Bear in mind that we are imposing a number of guardrails. As I said earlier, user-generated content, news content and video games would not be subject to the new regulations.
It turns out none of this is accurate. I’ve blogged about how news is caught by the legislation and the Heritage committee just eliminated the guardrail on user generated content. Now it appears that the government plans to introduce a motion to bring apps under the scope of CRTC regulation.
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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.
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Last week was a busy one in the wireless world in Canada. Just as people were debating the proposed Rogers – Shaw merger, the CRTC released its long awaited wireless decision involving the possibility of mandated MVNOs or mobile virtual network operators. While the CRTC notably concluded that Canadian wireless pricing is high relative to other countries and attributed that to insufficient competition, it ultimately was unwilling to fully embrace a broad-based mandated MVNO model. To help break down these recent developments, joining the Law Bytes podcast this week are Dwayne Winseck, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University and the director of the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project, and Ben Klass, a senior research associate at the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project and board member at the Internet Society Canada Chapter. They both join the podcast in a personal capacity representing only their own views.
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The Liberals led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were first elected in 2015 on a platform that emphasized transparency, consultation, and innovation. The signals were everywhere: it released ministerial mandate letters to demonstrate transparency, renamed the Minister of Industry to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to point to the importance of an innovative economy, and soon after the cabinet was sworn in, Canadians were awash in public consultations (I recall participating in an almost instant consult on the Trans Pacific Partnership). With promises of entrenching net neutrality, prioritizing innovation, focusing on privacy rather than surveillance, and supporting freedom of expression, the government left little doubt about its preferred policy approach.
As I watched Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault yesterday close the Action Summit to Combat Online Hate, I was left with whiplash as I thought back to those early days. Today’s Liberal government is unrecognizable by comparison as it today stands the most anti-Internet government in Canadian history:
- As it moves to create the Great Canadian Internet Firewall, net neutrality is out and mandated Internet blocking is in.
- Freedom of expression and due process is out, quick takedowns without independent review and increased liability are in.
- Innovation and new business models are out, CRTC regulation is in.
- Privacy reform is out, Internet taxation is in.
- Prioritizing consumer Internet access and affordability is out, reduced competition through mergers are in.
- And perhaps most troublingly, consultation and transparency are out, secrecy is in.
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When the proposed Rogers – Shaw merger was announced last month, it immediately became a flashpoint for Canada’s ongoing debate over wireless competition and pricing. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology moved quickly to put the proposed merger under the microscope with hearings that have included Rogers and Shaw along with academics, competitors, and regulators. I was invited to appear before the committee and provide my take on the implications of the merger. This week’s Law Bytes podcast goes inside the virtual hearing room with my short opening statement followed by clips of the Q &A with several Members of Parliament.
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