Canada Free Expression Government Censorship

Government promises to learn from Internet regulation mistakes

But will harmful content legislation and Broadcasting Act reform do so?

DECEMBER 16, 2021 — Today the Federal government released mandate letters instructing cabinet ministers on the government’s top priorities for their portfolios. As expected, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s top priority is replacing controversial Broadcasting Act reform Bill C-10. Other key Internet priorities in Rodriguez’s mandate letter include developing the government’s harmful content consultation into a legislative bill, and swiftly passing news legislation similar to Australia’s News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.

“Minister Rodriguez is being handed a golden opportunity to learn from previous Heritage Minister Guilbeault’s mistakes,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “The question is — will he do it? Will he listen to feedback as he’s been asked to do, and fix the government’s misguided Internet proposals? If he wants to avoid the fiasco that was Bill C-10, he can’t put the CRTC in charge of the content of Internet user posts and feeds. And he needs to make sure that financial support for Canadian creators is as available to someone making podcasts or Youtube videos as conventional broadcasts. You can’t fit the Internet into a legacy broadcasting era box, and you can’t credibly put forward a bill about telling Canadian stories if the reality is it is about taking money from the Internet for legacy media interests. It’s imperative that his department learn from the feedback they’ve gotten over the last year, listen to public and expert input, and correct their past legislative mistakes.” 

“Unusually, Minister Rodriguez’s mandate letter tells him explicitly he must reflect feedback from the government’s harmful content consultation in any future legislation,” continued Hatfield. “Given that we’ve said the consultation’s proposal could make Canada’s Internet amongst the most censored and surveilled in the democratic world, that’s good news. Dozens of concerned civil society groups and academic experts made critical submissions to the consultation — submissions the government still has not made public. Their written input should be released in full, and must guide any future legislative proposals.”

Broadcasting Act reform Bill C-10 became highly controversial in Spring 2021, after it was amended at parliamentary committee to give the CRTC regulatory powers over the audiovisual posts of ordinary Internet users. While the scope of those powers was limited before the the bill passed through parliament prior to the summer recess, Bill C-10 continued to give the CRTC power to interfere with the discoverability of user posts, requiring online platform display content the government recognizes as “Canadian” instead of content that would otherwise be provided based on our user preferences.

The government’s harmful content consultation closed in September 2021. The descriptive white paper that accompanied the consultation required online platforms to proactively detect and remove five types of potentially illegal content within 24 hours, and proposed all removed posts be turned over directly to CSIS and the RCMP. The consultation’s proposal has been highly criticized by academic experts and civil society groups in Canada and around the world. 

Over 42,000 members of OpenMedia’s community have participated in campaigns to fix or stop Bill C-10. Over 9,000 OpenMedia community members provided input to the harmful content consultation, alongside a more detailed OpenMedia submission raising concerns with the proposal and suggesting more appropriate areas for platform legislation.

About OpenMedia

OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.

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OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.

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