The Liberal party has been denying that they intend on regulating user generated content. However, documents suggest otherwise.
It appears that the Liberal party’s war on the Internet is continuing, albeit behind the veil of secrecy. Late last week, we reported on the story of the Canadian governments efforts to regulate user generated content. It is going to be part of the already notorious Bill C-10. This is through a not yet public amendment aimed at stripping out the provision that excludes user generated content from Canadian content requirements.
The amendment is being drafted by Liberal MP, Julie Dabrusin. The Liberal party has been apparently trying to brush off criticism by saying that this is all misinformation. Documents apparently obtained by University Law professor, Michael Geist, suggests otherwise:
However, based on new documents I recently obtained, it has become clear that Guilbeault and the government have misled the Canadian public with their response. In fact, the government effectively acknowledges that it is regulating user generated content in a forthcoming, still-secret amendment to Bill C-10. Amendment G-13, submitted by Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin on April 7th and likely to come before the committee studying the bill over the next week, seeks to amend Section 10(1) of the Broadcasting Act which specifies the CRTC’s regulatory powers. It states:
(4) Regulations made under paragraph (1)(c) do not apply with respect to programs that are uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service by a user of the service – if that user is not the provider of the service or the provider’s affiliate, or the agent or mandatary of either of them – for transmission over the Internet and reception by other users of the service.
But it is not just that the government knew that its changes would result in regulating user generated content. The forthcoming secret amendment only covers one of many regulations that the CRTC may impose. The specific regulation – Section 10(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act – gives the CRTC the power to establish regulations “respecting standards of programs and the allocation of broadcasting time for the purpose of giving effect to the broadcasting policy set out in subsection 3(1).” While the government plans to remove that regulation from the scope of user generated content regulations, consider all the other regulations it intends to keep and impose on millions of Canadians. Regulations that are not found in the amendment and therefore applicable to user generated content include regulations:
(a) respecting the proportion of time that shall be devoted to the broadcasting of Canadian programs;
(b) prescribing what constitutes a Canadian program for the purposes of this Act;
(e) respecting the proportion of time that may be devoted to the broadcasting of programs, including advertisements or announcements, of a partisan political character and the assignment of that time on an equitable basis to political parties and candidates;
Each of these speak to potential new regulation on the free speech of Canadians. Most notable may be political speech, which gives the CRTC the power to order equal time for partisan political speech. While this was designed for broadcast networks, the legislation would now cover all programs, including user generated content. Further by maintaining that regulatory power over user generated content and not identifying it as a provision for exclusion, the government may be thinking that the CRTC can order Internet platforms to intervene on political user generated content and mandate equal time for opposition views. In fact, Section 10 regulation making power is only part of the story, since the Broadcasting Act’s Section 9 also contains a wide range of potential conditions. None have exempted user generated content.
The idea of forcing such regulations on user-generated content is quite absurd to say the least. As an outlet that produces content on a regular basis, it would be impractical to try to include a certain percentage of Canadian content all the time – let alone somehow devote “equal” time to all political perspectives. Think about our first impression videos: In trying to keep the video’s down to about 15 minutes, are we supposed to somehow ensure there is Canadian content on a non-Canadian made game? Further, are we supposed to somehow devote parts of the video to different political views all of a sudden?
Further, with respect to the podcast we produce, how are we supposed to measure how much Canadian content is on there? We do willingly discuss Canadian issues, but there are some months where practically nothing is happening in Canada. That’s just the nature of digital rights and technology news. Some months wind up having loads of Canadian content while other months are virtually non-existent. In all honest, I’m not even sure how I could continue producing the podcast or first impression videos with such onerous requirements.
This is not to say Canada has no place for Canadian content requirements. Indeed, on traditional broadcasting mediums, there is a captive audience involved. These are large corporations able to produce anything they please. So, it makes sense that they don’t just rebroadcast American signals 24/7 while raking in the advertising cash. The Internet is far different and, as such, should be left alone in that regard. This kind of requirement screams of this being a solution looking for a problem.
The unfortunate thing is that it could very well lead to censorship in the process. If a small player were to just post up a video talking about their shopping trip, and the CRTC decides to crack down on that user, chances are, that user is going to realize that it’s not worth to to continue on. What’s worse is if there are Canadian users who intend on covering more serious issues, then this added layer of liability could act as a deterrent for some.
At the end of the day, this potential legislation is senseless, solves nothing, and creates a pile of new problems in the process. Whoever thought this was even remotely close to a good idea needs to be slapped.