The Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications resumes its hearings into Bill C-11 this week with plans for four sessions that will hear from a wide range of witnesses. Given the shortcomings of the House committee hearings – numerous important stakeholders were not given the opportunity to appear – the Senate review this fall provides a critical opportunity to re-examine the bill and to address some of its obvious flaws. With that in mind, this post is the first of a series that highlights some of Bill C-11’s major risks and concerns.
Post Tagged with: "freedom of expression"
Just one week after Canadian Heritage and CRTC officials provided assurances to a Senate committee that the Commission’s regulatory powers over freedom of expression were constrained by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the CRTC yesterday released a ruling in which the majority ignored the Charter altogether in regulating content on Radio-Canada. The decision signals how Bill C-11 could be used to regulate Internet content the CRTC deems contrary to Broadcasting Act policy objectives. It also continues a disturbing trend of revelations that have come in the aftermath of Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez cutting off debate to rush the bill through the House of Commons: officials later admitting that the $1B claim of benefits is merely an “illustrative” estimate, CRTC Chair Ian Scott opening the door to indirect algorithmic regulation, and now the release of a decision on content regulation that dates back to November 2020.
Bill C-11’s Foundational Faults, Part Two: The Regulate-It-All Approach of Treating All Audio-Visual Content as a “Program”
My first post in a series on foundational faults in Bill C-11 focused on the virtually limitless reach of the CRTC’s jurisdictional power over audio-visual services. The starting point in the bill is that all audio-visual services anywhere in the world with some Canadian users or subscribers are subject to the Canadian jurisdiction and it will fall to the Commission to establish thresholds exempting some services from regulation. However, even with some exemptions, the Canadian approach will require registration and data disclosures, likely leading many services to block Canada altogether, reducing choice and increasing consumer cost.
The expansive approach in Bill C-11 isn’t limited to its jurisdictional reach, however. Not only does the law have few limits with respect to which services are regulated, it is similarly over-broad with respect to what is regulated, featuring definitions that loop all audio-visual content into the law by treating all audio-visual content as a “program” subject to potential regulation.
Age Verification Requirements for Twitter or Website Blocking for Reddit?: My Appearance on Bill S-210 at the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Bill C-11, the government’s online streaming bill, is rightly garnering increasing attention, but there is a private member’s Senate bill that should also be on the radar screen. Bill S-210, a follow-up to S-203, is a bill that purports to restrict underage access to sexually explicit material. Sponsored by Senator Miville-Dechêne, a former CBC journalist appointed to the Senate in 2018, the bill would require age verification requirements for sites (likely backed by face recognition technologies) and mandated website blocking for sites that fail to comply with the verification requirements.
Time to Hit the Reset Button: Canadian Heritage Releases “What We Heard” Report on Online Harms Consultation
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez released a “What We Heard Report” on the government’s consultation on online harms earlier today. To the government’s credit, the report is remarkably candid as it does not shy away from the near-universal criticism that its plans sparked, including concerns related to freedom of expression, privacy rights, the impact of the proposal on certain marginalized groups, and compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The report provides a play-by-play of these concerns, leaving little doubt that a major reset is required. The government telegraphed a change in approach with the Rodriguez mandate letter, which explicitly stated that the online harms legislation “should be reflective of the feedback received during the recent consultations.”