Last month, Canada’s House of Commons passed Bill C-10: An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act. Sitting now in the Senate, this bill is the latest attempt of Trudeau’s government to regulate the internet.
Sponsored by Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, this bill will allow the government to impose strict regulations over YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Netflix, and other streaming platforms.
The act intends to update and expand broadcasting regulations to the social media era to ensure the “Canadian broadcasting system should serve the needs and interests of all Canadians.” The bill would give unprecedented powers to a government body called CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission) over streaming websites to ensure Canadian viewers are watching enough content that the government believes Canadians should be watching.
The bill is vague enough that it leaves questions open about power limits. At the same time, it gives the government power to force YouTube and others to “push” viewers on what content they should be watching and what should show up in their home feed. More importantly, it leaves the question of what is deemed “Canadian enough” to the CRTC without a clear definition. Additionally, it can also influence what gets uploaded to the internet.
Initially, the bill included a disclosure to exempt individual users from being regulated on their user-generated content. However, during the Committee Stage in the House, the parliament members removed the exemption. When confronted on the reason to remove it by the opposition and the media, Minister Guilbeault was awkwardly unable to provide a clear explanation.
While Trudeau’s government has indicated it intends to only do so on users with “large” followings (with a vague definition) and streaming providers, it misses the point that promoting specific content is regulating all individual creators. Even a former CRTC commissioner said the bill “doesn’t just infringe on free expression, it constitutes a full-blown assault upon it and, through it, the foundations of democracy.”
Providing such powers to the government is cause for concern. Why give the government such powers? Even with noble intentions (to “promote” Canadian material), those who support it forget: what would happen if a radical party forms government in the future? Imagine a government that legally can limit the internet experience only to show neo-Nazi views without breaking the law? Or communist propaganda? Or ultra-nationalistic and chauvinistic ideas? Under the banner of Canadian values, what an Orwellian existence that could be. Why risk it?
The Liberal Party, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, and the Green Party all support the bill, which is troubling. The latter three have a clear party mandate to increase government reach to achieve their policy goals. But the Liberal Party? It is indeed becoming less liberal every year.
The bill is sitting in the Senate after being approved in parliament earlier this week. As it could become the law of our internet soon, the little attention it has gathered from the general public is disturbing. Hopefully, the government does not remove this post by the nature of this bill or more overarching ones in the not such distant future.