The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage heard from a total of 48 witnesses as individuals or representing organizations during its study of Bill C-11 (excluding the CRTC and government officials). Of those 48, at least 16 either raised concerns about the regulation of user content in the bill or disputed government claims about its effect. Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs proposed and voted for amendments in Bill C-11 raised by a single witness or organization, but somehow the testimony of one-third of the witnesses, which included creators, consumer groups, independent experts, Internet platforms, and industry associations. was ignored.
The government’s decision to ignore the overwhelming majority of testimony on the issue of regulating user content damages the credibility of the committee Bill C-11 review and makes the forthcoming Senate study on the bill even more essential. But the government went beyond just ignoring witness testimony yesterday in the House of Commons. It now claims those views constitute “misinformation.” Tim Louis, a Liberal MP who is on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and sat through hours of testimony, said this in the House of Commons yesterday:
We have heard a lot of misinformation. My colleague just mentioned previously that a lot of emails have come in with a lot of confusion and misinformation, and I believe that is deliberate. I was going to address two of the issues that we might be hearing some of the most misinformation about in the Online Streaming Act. First is the fact that user-generated content is excluded. People ask where that is in the legislation. The bill explicitly excludes all user-generated content in social media platforms and streaming services. I will read the subsection. Subsection 2.1 of Bill C-11 states:
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.
In plain language, that means that users, even digital-first creators with millions of subscribers, are not broadcasters and therefore they will not face any obligations under the act. Any suggestions otherwise are simply untrue.
This is the same MP who has heard CRTC Chair Ian Scott tell his committee:
[Section] 4.2 allows the CRTC to prescribe by regulation user uploaded content subject to very explicit criteria. That is also in the Act.
In fact, Louis was asked specifically about Section 4.2:
Marty Morantz: Mr. Speaker, I recognize that proposed subsection 2.1 provides clarity to some extent with user-generated content, but proposed section 4.2 clearly says that user-generated content or programs that generate revenue can be regulated. I am wondering if the member would at least acknowledge that this act would in fact allow for the regulation of user-generated content that generates revenue?
Tim Louis: Right now the digital creators are still protected. Proposed section 4.2 does not say that they would be scoped in.
The effort to conflate regulation of users with regulating their content has been ongoing for months. It has been misleading for months. But the government enters a danger zone when it labels the concerns raised by one-third of the witnesses before committee as “misinformation.” It is not and the risks associated with the label within political debate are enormous. There are members of the government’s online harms panel calling for new regulations on “misleading political communications”. When government MPs call the majority of expert testimony and analysis – corroborated by its own regulator – misinformation, it creates risks to freedom of expression that cannot be ignored.
This past week was a bad week for democratic governance and Bill C-11. The decision to race through over 100 amendments without public disclosure or debate ran counter to basic democratic norms as the public will never know what changes were proposed in those secret amendments. Now government MPs are resorting to claims of misinformation for testimony they heard directly from one-third of witnesses. The harm that causes will last long after some extra Netflix money is added to the Canadian system.
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But seriously, what exactly can be done about all of this?
Ultimately, the government can bald-face lie, distort, deceive and ignore anyone and everyone they choose to and with their virtual majority (coalition with the NDP) government vote and pass any legislation they want no matter how bad it is.
I have long wondered what stops a majority government from going rogue like this and passing just about any legislation they want. Now it’s happening before my eyes and I guess I am going to get to see what happens.
Seriously, please tell me what check and balance is in place that prevents this because I honestly don’t know what it is.
Is it the senate? Does the senate have the power (or will) to simply completely squash and throw in to the garbage this or any other legislation they deem bad? Are senators mostly partisan, ultimately?
It’s the provinces.
How do the provinces have any say on federal law making exactly? They are completely uninvolved AFAIK?
Lying in Parliament. Stifling debate. Denning facts. Attacking critics. It seems the Liberals have stolen the playbook from an ex-president with bad hair. Maybe we should start calling them the Trumpdeau Liberals.
disgusting. more communists acts taking place righr before are eyes and nothing will be done about it
Yep. More authoritarian acts refusing any public discourse and input, and trodding along with their agenda while the people don’t do any meaningful response.
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How many senators were paid off by Soros who really runs Canadistan.
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Let them bash their own head. It will leave them crushed.
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Although it took me some time to read all of the comments, I found the article quite interesting. It was quite beneficial to me, and I’m sure to all of the people here!
Michael, your work deserves the highest praise. This is indeed a dangerous time. The “progressive” Left have embraced authoritarian tactics and seem to have forgotten how a liberal o democracy works or even its value to them. As a long time NDP supporter I am ashamed of what the party has become. Thank you for the intellectual rigor and integrity you keep bringing to these critical debates regarding digital technology and society.