Bill to regulate internet a ‘full blown assault’ against free speech in Canada, ex-govt broadcasting chief warns
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May 3, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – The former head of Canada’s broadcasting regulator blasted an amendment to a Canadian bill aimed at regulating online content, saying the removal of an original protection for user-generated content on sites such as Facebook and YouTube is not “going to end well.”
“Putting the CRTC in charge of the entire … internet, I mean, that’s like putting a logging company in charge of the Great Bear Rainforest,” said Peter Menzies, former head of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC), in reference to Bill C-10 in a Global News report.
Last year, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault introduced Bill C-10, which would regulate certain online media services through the creation of a new class of broadcaster called “online undertakings.” The new regulations would be done through amendments to Canada’s Broadcasting Act.
The original draft of Bill C-10 had an exemption clause or “Section 4.1” for “user content” posted on social media by individuals, meaning such posts would originally have not fallen under CRTC regulations.
However, a recent amendment to Bill C-10 done through a Heritage Committee meeting last Friday removed that provision, which in theory means the federal government would be able to regulate what people post online.
The legislation, if passed, would force companies such as YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram to remove content deemed harmful within 24 hours. In essence, it would let the CRTC regulate the internet along with social media in line with how they do for regular broadcasting services.
The CRTC is the federal body tasked with regulating TV and radio in Canada, but up until Bill C-10 has kept a hands-off approach to regulating the internet.
During the Heritage Committee meeting Friday regarding Bill C-10, Conservative Party MP Rachael Harder called upon her colleagues with motion to look at whether the removal of “Section 4.1” from the Bill C-10 “fundamentally changes the legislation and dissolves the ground on which the charter statement stood to justify charter compliance.”
However, Liberal MPs quickly voted down Harder’s motion and all debate on the bill was stopped.
The aim of Bill C-10, according to Guilbeault, is to ban “hate speech,” which includes “hurtful” language against politicians.
“Once a publication is flagged it will have to be taken down within 24 hours of having it being flagged,” Guilbeault said about the bill earlier in the year.
During a Commons heritage committee meeting in March, the head of Canada’s broadcast regulator said the agency will “regulate all programming,” including the internet, via the passage of a controversial bill now before parliament.
“The Commission has looked, three times in total dating back 20 years, at whether or not it would be desirable or necessary to regulate content delivered over the internet,” said Ian Scott, CEO of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as reported by Blacklocks Reporter.
Fines for non-compliance to Bill C-10 are large. A corporation can face a fine of up to $10 million for a first offense.
On Friday, Guilbeault gave what some media have described as a “nightmare” interview with the CBC.
Guilbeault was pressed by the CBC reporter in the Power & Politics interview and struggled to coherently answer why the initial draft of the bill excluded social media user generated content, only for it to now be included.
Guilbeault argued the social media exemption was removed it was what the “committee” wanted.
Law prof warned it’s ‘clear’ Trudeau’s looming internet censorship bill would indeed regulate ‘user generated content’
A professor from one of Canada’s most well-known universities warned last week in a blog post that, according to documents he “obtained,” the Trudeau government’s Bill C-10 would indeed allow for regulation of “user generated content” on popular sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
According to a blog post authored by Dr. Michael Geist, law professor at University of Ottawa and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, “Based on new documents I recently obtained, it has become clear that Guilbeault and the government have misled the Canadian public with their response.”
“In fact, the government effectively acknowledges that it is regulating user generated content in a forthcoming, still-secret amendment to Bill C-10. Amendment G-13, submitted by Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin on April 7th and likely to come before the committee studying the bill over the next week,” Geist wrote.
Geist said the “G-13” amendment “seeks to amend Section 10(1) of the Broadcasting Act which specifies the CRTC’s regulatory powers.”
“It states: (4) Regulations made under paragraph (1)(c) do not apply with respect to programs that are uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service by a user of the service – if that user is not the provider of the service or the provider’s affiliate, or the agent or mandatary of either of them – for transmission over the Internet and reception by other users of the service.”
According to Geist, the amendment is a clear “acknowledgement that user generated content are programs subject to CRTC’s regulation making power.”
“Liberal MPs may claim the bill doesn’t do this, but their colleagues are busy submitting amendments to address the reality,” Geist wrote.
Menzies - Bill C-10 – ‘constitutes a full-blown assault upon’ free expression
According to a recent National Post report, Menzies said Bill C-10 “doesn’t just infringe on free expression, it constitutes a full-blown assault upon it and, through it, the foundations of democracy.”
“It’s difficult to contemplate the levels of moral hubris, incompetence or both that would lead people to believe such an infringement of rights is justifiable,” Menzies said.
Erin O'Toole, MP and leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, slammed Bill C-10 as an attack on “freedom of speech on social media."
"Its original purpose was to level the playing field between streaming services like Netflix and Canadian broadcasters," O’Toole said in a video message posted to his Twitter page.
"But now, the bill actually gives unelected bureaucrats open-ended authority to censor the internet and regulate what Canadians say on social media."
CPC MP Pierre Poilievre, an outspoken critic of the Trudeau government, has launched a petition against Bill C-10 called “Stop the Censorship Bill & Protect Free Speech.” The petition calls on the Trudeau government to “immediately withdraw the censorship bill and respect free speech.”
Federal NDP party asks to put Bill C-10 on ‘hold’ pending charter review
In a statement today, the Federal NDP Party said that they will be voting in favor of a motion that puts “Bill C-10 on hold while the Department of Justice conducts a new Charter compliance analysis and calls on the Minister to appear in committee.”
“The modernization of this law is necessary for our cultural ecosystem. New Democrats strongly believe that we need to get this right.”
The government has the responsibility to come up with a solution,” a portion of the bill reads.
The NDP statement means Bill C-10 could face an uphill battle, as Trudeau Liberals need NDP support if the bill is to pass.