Guilbeault tweet, May 10, 2021, https://twitter.com/s_guilbeault/status/1391928193154695176?s=20

Guilbeault tweet, May 10, 2021, https://twitter.com/s_guilbeault/status/1391928193154695176?s=20

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Heritage Minister Guilbeault Traffics in Misinformation and Conspiracy Theory as Cause of Bill C-10 Criticism and Need for Government Speech Regulation

Last night, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault posted a remarkable tweet that should heighten concerns about Bill C-10, forthcoming online harms legislation, and the government’s intent with respect to free speech. In the weeks since it opened the door to treating all user generated content as a “program” subject to CRTC regulation, there has been mounting public criticism and concern about the implications for free speech. While the tech companies have remained relatively silent, Canadians have been speaking out. Those voices now include the Government of Saskatchewan, with Minister of Justice Gord Wyant writing to Guilbeault to urge the federal government to stop Bill C-10 from proceeding or amend it to ensure that “all creative Internet content generated by Canadians will be exempt from any regulatory supervision by federal government agencies.”

Given the opposition – as well as Guilbeault’s well-documented disastrous interviews on CBC and CTV – one would have thought the Minister would be seeking to assuage public concern. Instead, Guilbeault took to Twitter last night to suggest that the public anger over Bill C-10 was a matter of “public opinion being manipulated at scale through a deliberate campaign of misinformation by commercial interests that would prefer to avoid the same regulatory oversight applied to broadcast media.”

Over the past few weeks of intense Bill C-10 debate, nothing has left me angrier or more concerned than this tweet. First, the conspiracy theory amplified by Guilbeault is plainly wrong and itself quite clearly misinformation. The concerns regarding the bill have been backed by law professors, experts, Justice Ministers, former CRTC chairs, and hundreds of others. To claim this is a tech-inspired misinformation campaign lends support to the view that Guilbeault still does not understand his own bill and its implications. Moreover, not only have the tech companies remained relatively quiet, but most did not even appear before the Heritage Committee as part of its study. To suggest that having largely ignored the bill, the companies are now engaged in some grand conspiracy is lunacy.

Second, Guilbeault’s decision to quote from the Medium article is particularly notable since the piece not only argues that the criticism is based on a corporate-inspired misinformation campaign, but that it demonstrates the need for Bill C-10. In other words, Guilbeault is citing with approval an article calling for government and CRTC regulation precisely because of public criticism of proposed government legislation. With government insisting that the CRTC should have the power to regulate the content of Canadians’ social media feeds through discoverability requirements, it is worrying that the Guilbeault cites with approval an article that links regulating speech and political criticism.

Third, Guilbeault has regularly indicated that he plans to introduce “online harms” legislation in the coming weeks that will include website blocking, mandated takedowns, and the creation of a new social media regulator. The ease with which a government minister labels criticism and public dissent as misinformation for political gain is deeply troubling given that the same minister is planning extensive new speech and Internet regulations.

If the public needed yet another reason to be concerned about the government’s motivation for Bill C-10, Guilbeault just provided it. He is set to introduce a bill that purports to deal with misinformation, yet just used his own Twitter feed to traffic in it. Indeed, the government cannot claim to support freedom of expression and at the same time have its lead minister on the file amplify flimsy conspiracy theories and openly support regulating speech based on such theories. Bill C-10 is not designed to address misinformation, but the fact that Guilbeault seems to think it could help address the issue represents a giant red flag that cannot be ignored. The government should start from scratch on Bill C-10 and cannot vest responsibility for the online harms bill in Guilbeault.

33 Comments

  1. Edward Nixon says:

    But really. Are you suggesting “Commercial Interests” are not in this up to their eyeballs? Perhaps the Minister is just guilty of a Freudian Slip of attribution, i.e., as to where or at whom the influence is being focused?

  2. dirka dirka allahakbar says:

    CanCon and Dept of Heritage are a total red herring. This is an co-effort with big business to control the medium and small voices the Libs and triggered wallflowers ‘feel’ are bad… plain and simple.

  3. I am indeed wary of having resistance to Bill C-10 – as it is presently written – hijacked by commercial and pro-fascist interests, but my own concerns remain in effect.

  4. Matt Norwood says:

    Incredible. “Look at all these people criticizing my government’s censorship bill! See, this is why the government needs to have the power to censor people.”

  5. As typical of a politician, it’s another clear case of projection. He claims the tech companies are spreading misinformation but it’s clearly coming from all sides of the spectrum.

    However, if there are commercial interests spreading misinformation about the bill, just look at all the lobbyist mouthpieces for companies like Bell speaking out in the media that it’s just about making things “fair”, whatever that means, and telling us to just ignore all the rest of the writing on the wall.

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  7. Edward Nixon says:

    I think “Fair” in this context means “More” as in… money. While I appreciate the professor’s concern for our freedom of speech/expression, I would also and perhaps even more appreciate his investigating the number, participation and subject matter of the, no doubt, many, many meetings held with the wide range of people involved in drafting and pushing this legislation through. He has the access, presumably the knowledge of the various nooks and crannies and perhaps the heft to get that sort of information in front of the public. With that, we, the public, could exercise our freedoms in a much more informed and focused fashion.

  8. James HaIifax says:

    The easiest way to describe this biII, is to ask the peopIe who use sociaI media and the internet (just about everyone I wouId surmise) a very simpIe question.

    “Do you think Justin Trudeau is smart enough to teII you how to Iive? What to think? What to beIieve? What to say? and what to Iisten to?

    After aII, he was a snowboard instructor at one time…and a part time drama teacher with a penchant for grabbing women by the assz, and wearing bIack face makeup for his New Year’s MinstreI shows.

  9. Justa Reader says:

    I wondered who this Gord Dimitrieff the minister cited was-
    “As Founder and President of Aporia, Gord has been responsible for seeing the release of more than 50 albums, negotiated exclusive agreements with more than 30 songwriters/artists, and has negotiated agreements with European music companies to expand Aporia’s catalog of represented music copyrights in Canada. He is a board member of the Canadian Independent Music Association, and a member of several other professional music associations.”

    Ahh, yes, suddenly I agree with Guilbeault; he’s promoting “a deliberate campaign of misinformation by commercial interests”. Only, he’s mixed up the opponents with the advocates. I am not a commercial interest, and I consider the accusation an insult. It’s become attack on voters.

  10. Still Anonymous says:

    The bill is designed to amplify Canadian voices to Canadian listeners. So as far as I can tell, this affront to free speech is really about the free speech of foreign corporations.

    Why should they have free speech? They are not Canadian. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not extend to them.

  11. Michael Geist is Jordan Peterson's Sockpuppet says:

    Look dude, call it off. Quit harassing this guy. He’s now receiving threats over social media, which I’m sure you and your Con acolytes would consider just “holding the government accountable.” You know, liberty vs. tyranny, the Founding Fathers, all that other stuff that… doesn’t apply in Canada. Guilbeault is a nice guy and his intentions are noble. He’s a clumsy speaker, much better writer — but really, you’re the conspiracy theorist here. No one is being censored. You’ve gone on 50 news programs and podcasts to complain about being censored. I’m sure you’ll write a book and do a promotional tour about how much you’re being censored.

    But go do your happy dance, ’cause you probably got what you want anyway: C-10 is probably going to be clock-blocked at committee thanks to your paranoid disinfo campaign. You can go pop your champagne and eat more lobster with your long lost twin brother Jordan Peterson. He who in bad faith portrayed a bill to add transgender people to anti-discrimination laws as a violation of his sacrosanct freeze peach. So because of your reflexive America fetish, Canadians will continue to be colonized subjects of Yankee imperialism and lies coming from Silicon Valley and the CPC’s headquarters at the GOP troll factory, and you can cheer the free market and how much you owned the Libs.

    There’s six weeks left of sitting days and the sadistic Cons are obstructing everything else at committee because they didn’t get their way to haul Margaret Trudeau into a star chamber and strap her to an electrified polygraph test. I’m really not sure when this supposed “online harms” bill is even going to be introduced within that narrow window? I mean, I personally hope they get a majority and reintroduce the whole shebang, then ram it through just to drink salty Poultry Geist tears. For right now though, it’s over and done with, at least that’s what it looks like. I’m not sure what’s really to celebrate about being a libertarian a_hole and obnoxious ivory tower blowhard, but if/when you do, I’m sure we’ll hear all about it. For days and weeks on end, because, you know, you’re being censored. Shouting loud from the rooftops that you’re being censored.

    • Nobody should be threatened. People’s social media was threatened, so I’m sure there’s angry people out there. Exposing truth in politics is not harassment.

      I can’t understand your perspective, can’t follow what you’ve written at all. I can see you’re angry, and I can identify with you there, if not with your ideas. Online comments can be an outlet for fury, but there are real people at the other end. You’re a real person, and I hope you can find someone to talk to who knows how to help you deal with that anger. Mr. Geist mentioned being angry, and he’s used that feeling to do something positive and informative.

    • Completely Normal Person says:

      The amount of flimsy conflation, false equivalency and personal attack in this post is almost hilarious. I wonder why you’re posting here?

      I’m gen x and I can’t believe how the only people who care about free speech are now labelled fascists. It’s the single stupidest and most alarming decline in human reasoning in a century.

      Until 2010 we all agreed censorship was morally perverse.

      Anyone who tries to conflate censorship with virtue has just saved you the time in asking them their opinion on any other thing.

    • Jeffrey Brooman says:

      Hey Dude, calm down. You know what, you can take my jab. In fact, you can have all my booster shots too, and my wife’s.

  12. tabarnak says:

    Soit dit en passant, l’Assemblée nationale du Québec vient d’annoncer un appui unanime au projet de loi C-10. Vous n’êtes qu’un autre républicain conservateur de Harper/Trump qui déteste le Québec et soutient la colonisation par les intérêts des Yankee et de l’Alberta.

    “Freeze peach” est un “canard,” et vous êtes un “connard”. Va te faire foutre.

    • You know, maybe Quebec should have separated in 1995.

      • Brilliant EriW4MYc L., brilliant. Kind of like “go back where you came from,”, eh?

        • Not at all. If you bothered to translate the message sent you’d see that “tabarnak” was defaming Michael Geist, several Canadians, Alberta and the US, and whining that our freedom hinders attempts to restrict freedom in the name of “pro-Quebec” and anti-“colonization”.

          My response is a logical one… if the state of Quebec finds Canada’s freedoms too broad for their taste, they should (have) separate(d). And Quebec citizens should be free to move/travel to the rest of Canada… so your implication is again just bollocks. Funny though that you didn’t complain about tabarnak’s obvious invective.

          • Your “logic” is pure “love it or leave it.” And given the attitudes towards Quebec on the part of much of the right wing, it definitely fits into a “you aren’t one of us, you aren’t equal” narrative similar to telling minorities to “go back home” etc.

            I once saw a famous Italian-Canadian greengrocer (name starts with L like yours) in a hip part of Toronto come storming out of his shop to tell a native person loitering in front of his store to “go back where he came from.” I pointed out that his people have been here a lot longer than Italian-Canadians . . .

          • And this is among the most specious old responses there is. Don’t like the way a newspaper had printed lies about a cause you know about? Start your own newspaper, it’s a free country, they can print what they want and so can you. Right. Don’t like the way things are? Move out of the country. Separate, we don’t care. Real grade 3 stuff, Lindros, real grade 3 stuff.

          • It wasn’t defamation exactly. First e called him a right-wing Trumpster/Harperite Republican/ Conservative, then he called him some rude names I won’t repeat here in nglish, but which are not exactly defamation. A play on words, a hoax and something that rhymes with that in French but would rhyme with “grassy knoll” in English.

          • And it seems to me you’ve got it backwards. You’re the one who needs to leave if you don’t like it. One government has brought in legislation. Another has endorsed it. The party’s over. Find another place to party.

  13. Thank you for your work Michael. There are many who appreciate it.

  14. Wayne Hall says:

    “If the public needed yet another reason to be concerned about the government’s motivation for Bill C-10, Guilbeault just provided it. He is set to introduce a bill that purports to deal with misinformation, yet just used his own Twitter feed to traffic in it.”

    Wow. Bullseye!

  15. my captcha code got into my reply somehow. . .

  16. Roger Thorn says:

    I am stunned (not really) by the level of incompetence of this minister. Obviously the Peter Principal hold’s true.
    Thanks Michael for the continuing flow of information.

  17. Why am I not surprised that Guilbeault is now spouting conspiracy theories. After all the Bill is based on the notion that Canadian culture is in imminent danger from nebulous internet forces which can only be held off by official Canadian content like Vikings.

  18. Shaun Lovell says:

    “…tech companies relatively silent”? Can we really be sure of that? They have their ways, you know: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=New+York+GAO+FCC+net+neutrality&t=hc&va=u&ia=web

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