Canadian Government Officials Pushes Another Misinformation Campaign on Bill C-11

With all arguments defending Bill C-11 completely destroyed, it seems that lying about Bill C-11 is all supporters can do now.

Pressure is mounting to convince the Canadian government to put a stop to Bill C-11. Earlier, the United States government has now gotten involved, expressing concern over Bill C-11. This was quickly followed up by the crushing defeat of the argument that the CRTC is trusted to safeguard freedom of expression thanks to a recent decision that showed the CRTC is anything but trustworthy on that file.

So, with every argument for Bill C-11 going down in flames, and the government officially on break, you’d think that a reasonable strategy for the government is to lay low and hope things just blow over by the time they get to September.

Apparently, that isn’t the case.

It started with a tweet by which encouraged people to stop Bill C-11:

J.J.McCullough’s Summer DIY: Kill Bill #C11

The Chief of Staff for the Ministry of Canadian Heritage, John Matheson, then posted a response:

“[#C11] exempts YouTube and other uncurated social media platforms from CanCon exhibition requirements like those in place for TV & radio. The Bill also exempts social media platforms from any regulation of what YouTubers like McCullough can say…” #cdnpoli

Obviously, to our knowledge, Bill C-11 does no such thing. In fact, government lawmakers actually previously insisted that the legislation does regulate sites like YouTube, but through some mythical process that only makes sense to them, somehow separates the users from regulation. So, the story has changed again for the government where YouTube is now somehow exempt from regulation (which, to our knowledge, is also untrue).

In response, Matthew Carvery commented that he isn’t aware of any provision that does this (for what it’s worth, we are unaware of any provision that does this too) and pressed the official to explain that:

Unless there are amendments to the bill I haven’t seen, whether or not something is curated has no bearing on what’s exempted. If this has been changed in the bill, please share those changes, because they would be most welcome.

Matheson responded with what appears to be a novel new approach to explain away the speech regulation requirements:

“9.1 (6) Orders made under any of paragraphs (1)‍(a) to (d) apply only in respect of programs over which a person who…has programming control”

In plain English, no CanCon quotas on social media.

“(2.‍2) An online undertaking that provides a social media service does not…exercise programming control over programs uploaded by a user of the service”

#C11 amends 10(1)(c) of the Act such that content standards can’t be made for social media

In plain English, no censorship.

It’s a bizarre argument that really makes no sense. In short, as long as the user who uploads the content has absolutely no programming control over the contents of that upload. In other words, if I upload a video clip of the Daily Show, then the legislation would exempt me. However, if I upload the standard first impression video’s, which I do on a regular basis, then the regulation applies to me. This is a problem other creators face because so many of them upload their own content. This is what is actively encouraged across all platforms – to upload your own original content.

The tweets seemingly make the assumption that Canadian’s don’t understand how YouTube works and how digital first creators actually operate in the real world. Obviously, many vocal critics know better and this was directed at individuals who actually have a grasp of how things work in the real world. Further, the official then makes the nonsensical logical leap by saying that this means that there is no regulation of content on social media.

Carvery responded by pointing out the flaw of this argument:

9.1 (6) Is too vague. A valid interpretation of this clause would be that an individual has programing control over their own Youtube channel, or even that Youtube has control of the the content of their entire platform.

Also, something that hasn’t been mentioned enough, it’s dead easy for any individual with even the most basic understanding of html 5 to set up a website with their own video, over which they would, by any interpretation, have control over programing. Should THEY be regulated?

Another user chimed in:

Doesn’t everyone who creates a ‘program’ on Youtube for example have programming control over their own channel/videos?

Michael Geist also responded with a thread explaining why this more novel argument is also factually incorrect:

Defending the indefensible doesn’t take a break for the summer. Here’s Heritage Minister @pablorodriguez Chief of Staff last night on Bill C-11 insisting “no Cancon quotas on social media” and no content standards.

.@jajmatheson relies on exclusion of social media from CRTC’s power to set conditions on proportion of programs to be broadcast in Section 9.1(1)a-d. But the very next section – 9.1(1)(e) – does apply to social media sites, giving CRTC power over “presentation of programs”. 2/6

That would allow the CRTC to set conditions on sites like Youtube or TikTok for how they present user content. So Bill C-11 might not allow the CRTC to say 30% of actual TikTok streams must be Canadian, but it could say that it wants 30% of recommended videos to be Canadian. 3/6

How could the CRTC do that? As CRTC Chair Ian Scott told a Senate committee, he would tell the Internet platforms: “I don’t want to manipulate your algorithm. I want you to manipulate it to produce a particular outcome.” 4/6

But it doesn’t stop there. @jajmatheson also says there are no content standards. As we just saw with the CRTC Radio-Canada decision, the Commission has engaged in content regulation without regard for the Charter or freedom of expression analysis. 5/6

How does that play out with Bill C-11? If there is a type of user content the CRTC believes violates the Act’s objectives, it could use 9.1(1)(e) to set conditions requiring platforms to demote it or apply warning labels. That’s content regulation. 6/6

Put it another way, the section that was cited still doesn’t address the core problems of the legislation in the first place.

With another attempt to mislead Canadians going down in flames, rage tweeting MP, Chris Bittle, decided to throw another temper tantrum and launch personal insults at Geist:

“The indefensible” – I guess the vast majority of witnesses at committee were just wrong, or stupid? Both?

Michael, as a law professor, you need to do a better job teaching freedom of expression to your anonymous acolytes.

PS – Charter of Rights applies to all of our legislation.

Unsurprisingly, Bittle was called out again for his flippant remarks:

No, the “vast” majority of witnesses were those with financial interests in seeing the bill passed. Those harmed by the bill and those with no financial stake disagreed.

The misinformation apparently didn’t end there. A post written by a retired Unifor staff, Howard Law, tried to completely re-write the overall interpretation. Remember, Unifor is actively lobbying for this Internet crackdown and is, thus, financially motivated in all of this. In the blog post, Law argued that Geist admitted that user generated content is out:

The most industrious critic of C-11 Michael Geist has acknowledged that C-11 excludes the authority of the CRTC to devise quota regulations for online undertakings for Canadian programming in general or even for specific genres like drama, news or children’s programming. That’s the outcome of the “quota” sections 9(1)(a-d) being excluded by section 9(6) because YouTube doesn’t have programming control over its videos.

Also Mr.Geist no longer contests that uncurated hosting platforms (YouTube, TikTok, Facebook) will be exempt from CRTC Codes governing misinformation or abusive content because the enabling provision of the Act [section 3(1)g] for those Codes is inoperative for those platforms. For better or worse, the CRTC cannot apply those standards to YouTube because once again the platform doesn’t exercise “programming control” over YouTubers [sections 3(1)h and 2.2].

Now perhaps Mr Geist’s fellow C-11 critics —Open Media, Digital First Canada, Washington Post columnist J.J.McCullough, and Conservative MP Rachael Thomas— will make the same acknowledgements and be more precise in their public statements.

Of course, this is a straight up fabrication. At what point was “misinformation” or “abusive content” even part of the discussion? Further, the debate still centres around how user generated content is being regulated. How Law took the comments about how Bill C-11 still regulates user generated content and warped it to how this was some acknowledgement that quota’s don’t exist is a mystery.

Further, trying to say that YouTube has no programming control over video’s uploaded by user pretty much misses every argument in the whole debate. The Heritage Minister took great pains to say how “platforms are in and users are out”. So, saying that YouTube isn’t regulated under Bill C-11 is insanely ridiculous.

What this does highlight, however, is how critics have moved from making stuff up about Bill C-11 to making stuff up about what critics are saying. Already, trying to find ways of defending the bill through the text is a bust. From there, straight up lying about what Bill C-11 does is also a bust. Attempting to say that the “aims” and the “intent” of the legislation was a dead on arrival argument. So, now we’ve seemingly moved to where making false assertions to what critics are saying about the bill are being made. If that doesn’t speak to how badly supporters lost the debate, I really struggle to think what does. What’s more is that it compounds the argument that the Canadian government needs to fix Bill C-11 – not that the government or its lobbying supporters have any intent on doing that in the first place.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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