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#InternetSOS: OpenMedia’s 2021 Election Platform for our Internet

Canada's Internet is trapped in dangerously lobbyist-infested waters. Our 2021 election platform lays out a plan for getting back on course.

Canada is entering the 2021 federal election with our Internet policy totally adrift.

Without a strong positive vision for the Internet from any party, powerful industry lobbies, Big Telecom’s deep pockets, and the surveillance-happy folk at CSIS and the RCMP are driving the only proposals with any real momentum.

From the content we stream to what we say on social media, lobbyists are taking advantage of our frustration with real problems of the modern Internet to justify more money and more power for the giants they represent. Meanwhile, proposals like privacy reform Bill C-11 that had real potential to defend the rights of Internet users in Canada ended up withering on the vine, never getting serious consideration or debate. 

While our government is busy proposing new Internet regulators, they’ve allowed the interests and views of Big Telecom to fully capture our existing telecom regulator, the CRTC. Under Chair (and former Telus executive) Ian Scott, the CRTC has delivered blow after blow to our Internet and wireless affordability in a series of anti-consumer decisions that show no signs of stopping.

If there was ever a time to put out an Internet SOS, it’s now. 

That’s why we’re calling for a policy reset this election. It’s time our leaders listen to us, the voters, by embracing a vision for the Internet that puts the rights of ordinary Canadians first.

Good Internet policy won’t come from a battle royale between tech companies that want to surveil and influence us, and government agencies that want the same. And it certainly won’t come from the two working in league, like with Big Telecom’s buddy-buddy, grab-a-pint relationship with Ian Scott’s CRTC. A better Canadian Internet will be one that gives each of us more options and more control over the experience we have online, supported by policies that guarantee affordable access to high-quality connectivity for all.

That’s why OpenMedia is calling on every party to guarantee:

  1. Universal Internet Access: Fast, affordable, and competitive home and mobile Internet access for everyone in Canada.
  2. Empowered Internet Users: Internet content regulation that empowers us, the users, to make our own choices about what we experience online.
  3. Expanded Privacy Protections: Reformed privacy laws built on our ongoing consent for use of our data, with meaningful punishment for violations.

Find our detailed recommendations for parties below: 

Access

Everyone in Canada should have unrestricted access to multiple options for affordable, high-speed, world-class Internet, regardless of where they live.

Key Recommendations

  1. Guarantee Affordable Home & Wireless Internet: Introduce universal robust market competition to drive Canada’s sky-high home and mobile Internet prices downward.
  2. World-Class Connectivity — Everywhere: Every household in Canada, regardless of where they live, must be served by the gold standard of Internet technology: fibre. 
  3. Public Interest Comes First: End Big Tech and Big Telecom calling the shots, and put power back in the hands of people to guide policies & regulation that serve us.

Policies

Freedom of Expression

Everyone in Canada should be empowered to share, collaborate, and express themselves freely online.

Key Recommendations

  1. Don’t Break the Internet: Reject all government proposals that would block websites in Canada’s Internet, or favour some types of Internet content over others.
  2. Protect Online Speech: Guarantee that any new rules that impact online speech will uphold our Charter of Rights, not expand beyond offline restrictions, and receive full public consultation and parliamentary debate.
  3. Empower Internet Users: Any new rules for online platforms must empower us, the users and voters, first and foremost. 
  4. Support Canada’s Internet Creators: Support digital creators to tell our stories on the Internet.

Policies

  • Don’t Break the Internet
  • Protect Online Speech
    • Check any legislation that impacts our online speech to ensure it is compliant with our Charter rights before bringing it to Parliament— not afterwards.
    • Guarantee no expansion of online speech regulation beyond what is already illegal for offline speech in Canada.
    • Commit to full, open public consultation and parliamentary debate around any legislation with implications for our online speech.
  • Empower Internet Users
    • Mandate extensive transparent reporting by online platforms to their users of how they moderate our content.
    • Compel social media platforms to develop mechanisms that enable their users to easily mass block or otherwise end harassment by other Internet users.
    • Work with online platforms to develop an easy to use mechanism for users to report and remove non-consensually shared sexual material that includes them.
    • Fund research on approaches to fact-checking misinformation that respect user expression.
  • Support Canada’s Internet Creators
    • Update outdated CanCon regulation to recognize and support production of modern digital-first forms of content creation.
    • Explicitly recognize and support the voices of Canada’s Indigenous and minority communities on the Internet.
    • Promote the production of content under Creative Commons licensing, and other forms of public domain.
    • Make copyright term extension beyond 50 years after the author’s death opt-in, not automatic, freeing our cultural heritage for further creative use.

Privacy

Everyone in Canada should have control of their sensitive personal information and communications, backed by substantial consequences for violations of their privacy.

Key Recommendations

  1. Enforceable and Effective Privacy: Reform our privacy laws to close loopholes and meaningfully penalize violations.
  2. Control of our Personal Data: Require informed, ongoing consent for use of our personal information.
  3. Stop Emerging Technologies from Breaking Privacy: Regulate emerging mass surveillance technology, like facial recognition and other biometric surveillance.

Policies

  • Enforceable and Effective Privacy
    • Comprehensively update Canada’s private sector and public sector privacy law to:
      • Establish in law that privacy is a fundamental human right.
      • Close loopholes that make nonprofits and political parties exempt from privacy laws.
      • Give the Privacy Commissioner real enforcement powers, including:
        • The unrestricted power to levy significant fines against private sector organizations, subject only to judicial appeal.
        • Order-making power for private and public sector organizations.
        • Oversight of privacy obligations for federal government departments and agencies, including requests for personal information. 
  • Control of our Personal Data
    • Give people in Canada real control over our personal information, including: 
      • Compel government departments and agencies to report on the number of requests that they get from law enforcement for our personal information, and how often these requests are fulfilled or denied.
      • Require transparency and alternate recourse for any private or public decision that uses an algorithm to assess us, including:
        • The ability to know when an algorithm is being used to make a decision that affects us.
        • The right to request a human review of that decision. 
        • The right to appeal that decision.
      • The right to know how our personal information is being shared.
      • The ability to request timely access to our personal information, and correct mistakes.
      • The right to extract our personal information and associated data in a usable and transferable format.
      • An ongoing consent requirement for use of our data, including the ability to withdraw our consent and have that data deleted.
  • Stop Emerging Technologies from Breaking Privacy
    • Ban law enforcement from using facial recognition technology in public spaces and on databases of the general public.
    • Develop legislative guidelines limiting private sector use of facial recognition and other biometric technologies without explicit consent of those affected.
    • Make privacy impact assessments mandatory for every new and existing technology used by law enforcement:
      • Require approval from the relevant law enforcement agency’s governing body before moving forward.
      • Make the assessment results publicly available.
      • Mandate completion before law enforcement is able to use the technology, and review the assessment on a yearly basis.
    • Update the rules that govern how digital devices are treated at Canada’s borders: 
      • Develop clear and transparent CBSA policies, with mechanisms for recourse.
      • End customs and immigration searches of digital devices without reasonable grounds.
      • Ensure that searches of electronic devices have a dedicated legal basis that is distinct from searches of other types of goods.