Sunday, May 2, 2021

Canadian gov't moves to regulate online content

 'Full-blown assault' on free expression: Inside the comprehensive Liberal bill to regulate the internet |National Post - Tristin Hopper:

April 29, 2021 - "After more than 25 years of Canadian governments pursuing a hands-off approach to the online world, the government of Justin Trudeau is now pushing Bill C-10, a law that would see Canadians subjected to the most regulated internet in the free world. 

"Although pitched as a way to expand Canadian content provisions to the online sphere, the powers of Bill C-10 have expanded considerably in committee, including a provision introduced last week that could conceivably allow the federal government to order the deletion of any Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or Twitter upload made by a Canadian. In comments this week, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh indicated his party was open to providing the votes needed to pass C-10, seeing the bill as a means to combat online hate....

"Former CRTC commissioner Peter Menzies said in an interview that 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'....

"The draft text of Bill C-10 specifically included a clause exempting social media. While the government was looking to regulate the internet, it didn’t want to bother with anything 'uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service by a user of the service.' Indeed, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has repeatedly framed C-10 as a way to regulate streaming services such as Netflix and Crave while leaving social media alone.... 

"But in a House of Commons Heritage committee meeting Friday the social media clause was deleted.... What the deletion means is that every single Canadian who posts to Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter or YouTube could be treated like a broadcaster subject to CRTC oversight and sanction. The users themselves may not necessarily be subject to direct CRTC regulation, but social media providers would have to answer to every post on their platforms as if it were a TV show or radio program....

"When he introduced Bill C-10 in November, Guilbeault assured the House of Commons that 'user-generated content, news content and video games' would not be subject to the new regulations. Guilbeault’s 180-degree turn on social media ... [means that] if your Canadian website isn’t a text-only GeoCities blog from 1996, Bill C-10 thinks it’s a program deserving of CRTC regulation. This covers news sites, podcasts, blogs, the websites of political parties or activist groups and even foreign websites that might be seen in Canada. In a Monday meeting of the Canadian Heritage committee, smartphone apps were also thrown under the Bill C-10 rubric, although the complete text has not been released to the public.

"Passage of Bill C-10 would not subject Canadian content creators to a top-down China-style censorship regime.... But the ultimate effect of C-10 would be to plunge whole realms of independent media — from YouTubers to podcasters to bloggers — into an environment where they could face both a requirement for government registration as well as any number of CRTC content strictures drawn up without the need for additional legislation or oversight. As the bill’s official FAQ states, only after it becomes law will the CRTC decide 'how it should implement the new powers afforded by the Bill.'

"Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa professor and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, has been among one of the most persistent critics of Bill C-10, calling it 'dangerous,' and 'inexcusable.' In a February blog post, Geist noted that aside from C-10’s infringements on free expression, it could spark blowback.... Geist cites the experience of Facebook in Australia.... [After]  Australia passed legislation requiring the social media giant to compensate news companies whenever a link was shared on its platform ... Facebook simply banned the sharing of news content by Australian users, restoring it only after Australian legislation was amended.

"The penalties prescribed by Bill C-10 are substantial. For corporations, a first offence can yield penalties of up to $10 million, while subsequent offences could be up to $15 million apiece. If TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are suddenly put in a situation where their millions of users must follow the same rules as a Canadian cable channel or radio station, it’s not unreasonable to assume they may just follow Facebook’s example and take the nuclear option." 

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