secret plans by Jodi Green (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/58iptn

secret plans by Jodi Green (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/58iptn

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Why the Government’s Secret Forthcoming Bill C-10 Amendment Confirms Its Plans to Regulate User Generated Content

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault and the Liberal government’s response to mounting concern over its decision to remove a legal safeguard designed to ensure the CRTC would not regulate user generated content has been denial. The department’s own officials told MPs that all programming on sites like Youtube would be subject to regulation, yet Guilbeault insisted to the House of Commons that user generated content would be excluded from regulation as part of Bill C-10, his Broadcasting Act reform bill.

However, based on new documents I recently obtained, it has become clear that Guilbeault and the government have misled the Canadian public with their response. In fact, the government effectively acknowledges that it is regulating user generated content in a forthcoming, still-secret amendment to Bill C-10. Amendment G-13, submitted by Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin on April 7th and likely to come before the committee studying the bill over the next week, seeks to amend Section 10(1) of the Broadcasting Act which specifies the CRTC’s regulatory powers. It states:

(4) Regulations made under paragraph (1)(c) do not apply with respect to programs that are uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service by a user of the service – if that user 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.

The amendment is a clear acknowledgement that user generated content are programs subject to CRTC’s regulation making power. Liberal MPs may claim the bill doesn’t do this, but their colleagues are busy submitting amendments to address the reality.

But it is not just that the government knew that its changes would result in regulating user generated content. The forthcoming secret amendment only covers one of many regulations that the CRTC may impose. The specific regulation – Section 10(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act – gives the CRTC the power to establish regulations “respecting standards of programs and the allocation of broadcasting time for the purpose of giving effect to the broadcasting policy set out in subsection 3(1).” While the government plans to remove that regulation from the scope of user generated content regulations, consider all the other regulations it intends to keep and impose on millions of Canadians. Regulations that are not found in the amendment and therefore applicable to user generated content include regulations include those involving the proportion of time devoted to broadcasting Canadian programs (10(1)(a) and what constitutes a Canadian program (10(1)(b)). 

Each of these speak to potential new regulation on the free speech of Canadians. In fact, Section 10 regulation making power is only part of the story, since the Broadcasting Act’s Section 9.1 also contains a wide range of potential conditions. None have exempted user generated content. For example, Section 9.1(b) gives the CRTC the power to establish conditions on “the presentation of programs for selection by the public, including the discoverability of Canadian programs.” Since the government has brought user generated content within the scope of programs, this could include incorporating various policy objectives into the algorithmic choices of services such as Youtube, Instagram or TikTok. For millions of Canadians, it means their content could end up demoted or limited within the services as the CRTC gets in the game of establishing rules for what their feed looks like or how visible their content is to other users.

While it is difficult to know precisely how the CRTC will use its powers, there is now no doubt that Guilbeault and the Liberal government knew that the removal of the user generated content exception would establish the possibility of regulation. More troublingly, its forthcoming proposed amendment explicitly intends to keep many of those regulatory powers in place.

20 Comments

  1. Don Moffatt says:

    The NDP are the Cause of the Internet problems!

    It has got to be the NDP who are either supporting the liberals on all of this Internet legislation or it is the NDP who are the driving force behind the Internet legislation.

    The liberals in Ottawa have a minority government. To pass any Internet legislation and to remain in office, the Liberals need the support of at least one other party.

    It is highly unlikely that the support is coming from either the Conservatives or the Bloc Quebecois. That leaves just the NDP.

    A strategy is needed to bring the NDP out into the open.

    This Internet legislation needs to be exposed as a Liberal and NDP combined attack on the Internet.

    If possible, a strategy to divide the liberals and the NDP on this Internet legislation may work.

    The NDP are the party that wants more government involvement and legislation in things. It may even be that the NDP are pushing the Liberals into this.

    It may be that the NDP are behind the huge changes and reversals that the Liberals have made since the last election.

    • I highly doubt the NDP is somehow behind any of this. It’s typically Conservatives or the Bloc that would support anything like this. If it’s not, it would be heavy lobbying behind the scenes which the Liberal party is notorious for. The NDP has at least 15 years of being defenders of the Internet and I see no reason why the NDP would suddenly change course. This isn’t the budget, it’s C-10.

      Unless you have any kind of evidence to back up your claim, I’ll just assume that your comments is just just an evidence free unwarranted attack on the NDP.

      • 🤣😂😅 Boy, that’s rich coming from the liberal socialist lite party. Why don’t you guys just get it over with and buy memberships from the dictator. You’re going to lose so many seats next election because of your communist leader, you’ll be lucky to beat the Greens. Even Angus’ seat isn’t safe anymore. Shoring up the liberal socialists has made you a pariah. Nobody ever really cared about you guys, we looked at dippers like yapping little ghetto dogs, pretty harmless. Now, your all just sheep following Singh, a Khalistani terrorist who is not allowed in the US or India, because of his activities. Now you’re actually dangerous to our democratic system and the Canadian way of life. Your party is done like a dog’s dinner and good riddance to you communists.

      • Singh has outright stated he will openly support this bill, the Liberal heritage minister was the one who drafted the bill… the Bloc doesn’t seem to be on board with the bill and the Conservatives have outright denied it. So no, this is typically the act of the LPC lately to strip rights and freedoms from Canadians.

        The NDP aiding them lately has been alarming. I am typically an NDP voter, but Singh has pushed the party towards dangerous and anti-Canadian values. There are still a lot of great MP’s in the NDP… Richard Cannings, Jack Harris, etc. They might not understand the full extent of how horrible this bill is. If you really, TRULY, believe in the NDP still. Then write them.

        Disturbingly enough… Singh WAS against this bill originally. But that has completely changed now the LPC has shoved in as many references to “equality” “hate speech” etc into it. Yes, we all hate, hate speech, but this is an attack on free expression and creators’ rights. Again something he once argued in favour of but now he is willing to be “open to supporting” the bill.

        https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/ndp-open-to-supporting-controversial-broadcasting-bill-amendment-singh

        Third paragraph in is a direct quote, immutable quote regardless the source.

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  3. Micha Deschamps says:

    Michael, can you please start telling people WHAT they can do to stop this, instead of just writing how bad it will be and that it must be defeated, and then never telling people WHAT to do to defeat it? Thanks.

    • Write to NDP and Bloc MP’s. The LPC will ignore anything you say, they are strictly party whipped on this and even if someone agrees with you in the LPC it does NOT matter.

      https://www.ourcommons.ca/en

      Go here and write every single member of the NDP and Bloc. The CPC already oppose it but either of those parties could be flipped, and SIngh has outright stated he is now open to the destruction of free expression for Canadians so long as the LPC negotiates with him. The NDP is a vulnerable party seats wise, so they are in a position that people can affect their policy.

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  6. Michael, can you explain the 2.1 section which remains in the bill, as far as I know?

    “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.”

  7. Kevin Plemel says:

    Is there an active Petition against this Bill somewhere that we can sign?

    • Open Media is running another one of their “email your MP” campaigns with a form letter that’ll automatically find yours.

  8. Fortinbras says:

    All of the issues raised by Michael Geist in his April 27, 28 and 29 posts amount to a tempest in a teapot.

    In fact, Bill C-10 does not propose to extend the powers given to the CRTC by the current Broadcasting Act with regard to user-generated content. Instead, Bill C-10 proposes to restrict the Commission’s existing authority by introducing an exception for user-generated content within the definition of a broadcasting undertaking, as follows:

    “(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.”

    Thus, social media users are excluded from consideration as broadcasting undertakings and would not subject to regulation, but social media service providers, such as YouTube, might be. Michael Geist’s discussion of what he calls the “secret” amendment G-13, is therefore irrelevant.

    • Annie O' says:

      If YouTube is regulated, then your posts to YouTube are regulated. The thing is, neither my computer nor YouTube’s servers belong to anyone other than Google and I. The Gov’t MUST stay the F out of my business!!

      • Fortinbras says:

        The content on your computer or YouTube’s servers is of a private nature. But the exchange of programs between the two which uses the public air waves or coaxial cable infrastructure in Canada is subject to the Broadcasting Act. Up to now, the CRTC has chosen to exempt digital media on the Internet from regulation.

        Bill C-10 proposes to reduce the CRTC’s authority by limiting the Commission’s powers over user generated programs, as currently set out in the Act. At the same time, it leaves the door open to regulation of broadcasting on the Internet that is revenue-generating, either directly or indirectly. YouTube channels and other digital media distributors that contain advertising or are offered by subscription should be treated like any other broadcasting undertaking and make some sort of contribution to the Canadian broadcasting system within which they operate.

        • Annie O' says:

          Fortinbras,
          Actually my communications with Google have never been subject to the Broadcasting Act, and the CRTC has never had the authority to choose to exempt them or to not exempt them. First of all, my method of connection is irrelevant, but I happen to use the telephone lines which were never subject to the Broadcasting Act. Furthermore, they’re one-to-one, and not one-to-many, and so by definition, are not “broadcasting”. Then they’re subject to network neutrality, so again, are not open to regulation. Then they’re encrypted by default (https-everywhere plugin), they can’t be known so can’t be regulated.

          So this is, in fact, another first attempt at regulating the Internet which, like all others before it, will either fail to pass, or if it passes, will fail anyway because we’ll all just set our VPNs to make us look like we’re surfing from the US, or some other easy fix because, really, no one likes to be censored.

          • Fortinbras says:

            Hi Annie O’

            I can’t speak to your communications with Google, but the broadcasting of programs by services like YouTube is subject to the Broadcasting Act as it now stands. Whether the mode of communication is coaxial cable, cellular telephone or a telephone line, the broadcasting of programs over the Internet could be regulated by the CRTC, if it wished to do so. For the time being, the Commission has chosen to exempt from regulation digital media activities on the Internet.

            The broadcasting of Bell Fibe TV by telephone lines, for example, is regulated by the CRTC pursuant to the Broadcasting Act even though the Commission regulates point-to-point telephone communications via the Telecommunications Act. This is because “broadcasting means any transmission of programs, whether or not encrypted, by radio waves or other means of telecommunication for reception by the public…” Point-to-point communications are defined as “broadcasting” if they involve the transmission of “programs” for reception by the public, which is the case with YouTube. This is also why the CRTC regulates video on demand (VOD) services which in some ways resemble point-to-point communications.

            The changes to the Broadcasting Act proposed in Bill C-10 are meant to prod the CRTC into using some of the powers it already possesses in the realm of the Internet. There is no meaningful free speech or “censorship” issue involved in what the government is proposing.

  9. Ramblings says:

    “…in a forthcoming, still-secret amendment to Bill C-10. Amendment G-13, submitted by Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin on April 7th and likely to come before the committee studying the bill over the next week”

    I’m confused by this – it’s a secret but it was “submitted” April 7th? Submitted where?

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