In recent years, there has been growing concern worldwide with the privacy risks associated with mass data collection online, the potential for rapid dissemination of hate speech and other harmful content on the Internet, and the competitive challenges posed by technology companies – often labelled “web giants” – that are enormously popular with the public but which do not fit neatly into conventional cultural and economic policies. My Globe and Mail op-ed argues the Internet policy proposals contained in the Liberal and Conservative platforms offer dramatically different answers to the question that sits at the heart of these policy issues: who should bear responsibility for the potential risks that arise from the Internet?
Platforms or People?: The Liberals and Conservatives Outline Competing Visions of Internet Responsibility
The CBC’s copyright infringement lawsuit against the Conservative Party over the use of seven short video clips in a campaign ad and several Twitter postings sparked a torrent of criticism as even CBC supporters wondered what executives were thinking. My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that the public broadcaster claimed it was defending the independence of its journalists and journalism, yet the opposite predictably occurred, with many believing that the lawsuit itself demonstrated a political bias.
The 2015 Liberal campaign platform that vaulted the party from third place to a majority government made a big economic bet that focusing on innovation would resonate with voters and address mounting concern over Canadian competitiveness. Innovation would serve as a guiding principle over the years that followed: The Minister of Industry was reframed as Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, millions were invested in innovation superclusters and global leadership on artificial intelligence was touted as a national priority.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that four years later, the 2019 Liberal party platform does not include a single mention of innovation or AI. Instead, it is relying heavily on ill-fitting European policies to turn the Canadian digital space into one of the most heavily regulated in the world. Rather than positioning itself as the party of innovation, the Liberals are now the party of digital regulation with plans for new taxes, content regulation, takedown requirements, labour rules and a new layer of enforcement commissioners.
Responding to years of consumer frustration with the state of Canadian wireless pricing, Canada’s political parties have propelled the issue on to the election campaign agenda. The telecom giants will disagree, but study after study has found that Canadians pay more for wireless services than consumers in most other developed economies. But though just about everyone agrees we have a problem, my Globe and Mail op-ed notes there remains considerable debate over what to do about it.
Four years ago, then-prime minister Stephen Harper used the first week of the 2015 federal election campaign to pledge that if re-elected his government would not institute a Netflix tax. My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that the Liberals responded with a no Netflix tax promise of their own, which became government policy when Justin Trudeau was elected a few months later. Yet as Canada heads toward another election this fall, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and his party seem ready to place the spotlight on Netflix taxes once again. Only this time, the government will call out opposition parties that do not commit to new Internet taxes.