The long legislative road of Bill C-11 comes to an end later today as nearly 2 1/2 years after the original Bill C-10 was first tabled in the House of Commons by then-Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, the Senate will vote to approve the bill. I’ve been asked repeatedly this week about what now lies ahead, but I think it is worth one more look back. I have long believed that politics invariably involves compromise as governments look to maximize the political benefit and limit the political risk from any given policy. The emphasis on compromise is why stakeholders rarely walk away entirely happy on most issues that feature a diversity of views, whether it is copyright, privacy, or Internet regulation. Yet with Bill C-11, compromise from the government never came.
Archive for April, 2023
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 164: Teresa Scassa on the Latest Canadian Court Ruling on Facebook and What It Might Mean for Privacy Reform
The controversy over Facebook and Cambridge Analytica was back in the spotlight in Canada as the Federal Court sided with Facebook and against the Privacy Commissioner of Canada in a decision arising from a 2019 investigation into the matter. The Privacy Commissioner ruled against Facebook in 2019, but Facebook disagreed with the findings, took the matter to court, and won. What lies behind the decision and what does it mean for privacy in Canada? My colleague Teresa Scassa, who holds the Canada Research Chair In Information Law, is widely regarded as one of Canada’s leading privacy law experts. She posted on the decision soon after its release and joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about the ruling and its broader implications.
Government Gets the Law Wrong as it Finally Makes the Case Why it is Rejecting the Bill C-11 User Content Regulation Fix
With Bill C-11 in the final stretch – Senate approval could come this week – the government finally provided a more detailed explanation for rejecting the Senate’s user content regulation fix. Indeed, after weeks of false or empty justifications for the rejection, Senator Marc Gold, the government’s representative in the Senate, at long last tried to make the case for rejecting the amendment. Leaving aside the fact that if there were problems with the amendment, it was open to the government – and is still open to the Senate – to fix any perceived problems by amending the amendment, the reality is that Senator Gold’s explanation gets the law wrong. It is sad that as the bill nears passage, the government doesn’t seem to understand or misleads on the impact of its own legislation. I realize that another long post isn’t going to change that, but the thousands of Canadian creators who spoke out on their concerns deserve better.
As anyone who has tried ChatGPT will know, at the bottom of each response is an option to ask the AI system to “regenerate response”. Despite increasing pressure on the government to move ahead with Bill C-27’s Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA), the right response would be to hit the regenerate button and start over. AIDA may be well-meaning and the issue of AI regulation critically important, but the bill is limited in principles and severely lacking in detail, leaving virtually all of the heavy lifting to a regulation-making process that will take years to unfold. While no one should doubt the importance of AI regulation, Canadians deserve better than virtue signalling on the issue with a bill that never received a full public consultation.
Why the Twitter – CBC Labelling Battle is a Distraction From the Real Problems with Government Media Policy and the Public Broadcaster
Twitter and the CBC were in the spotlight yesterday with Twitter’s decision to add a “government funded media” label to the CBC Twitter account. The label is defined by Twitter as a media organization “where the government provides some or all of the outlet’s funding and may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content.” CBC responded by tweeting it would pause its Twitter activities because suggesting that its journalism was anything other than impartial and independent was untrue. The government funding for CBC is undeniable, but the inclusion of “government involvement over editorial content” is apt to mislead. The Broadcasting Act provides guidance on the kinds of content to be found on CBC, but there is an important difference between general policy objectives and specific involvement over editorial content. In fact, Twitter has another label for “publicly funded media” accounts that appear to be better suited to the CBC since it covers “media organizations that receive funding from license fees, individual contributions, public financing, and commercial financing” but makes no reference to editorial content.
The Twitter-CBC labelling battle offers more heat than light since it does little to address the underlying problems with media independence in Canada and the CBC (much less the tire fire that is Twitter). Instead, it simply provides fodder for CBC critics to point to the Twitter label and argue for “defunding the CBC” (at least the English language part of it) and CBC defenders to proclaim that they will stand up for the public broadcaster against unfair smears. That debate distracts from serious underlying problems with government media policy and the public broadcaster.