Editorial: My Letter Begging the Canadian Senate Not to Ruin the Internet Through Bill C-11

Drew Wilson has written to the Canadian senate begging them not to destroy the open Internet through Bill C-11.

Open Media is currently calling on Canadians to write their senator to get them to fix Bill C-11. I have said in the past that I have doubts the Senate will do the right thing here. As a result, I’m more convinced that a lawsuit will save the day after the bill receives royal assent. As I’ve also said, I sincerely hope I am wrong with this prediction and the Senate really does fulfill its role as “sober second thought” despite the control Trudeau has on the chamber.

While I do have my doubts that this effort will be successful, that’s not a reason to not try. While many Canadians might have to rely on the form letter because, let’s face it, writing is hard unless you’re someone like me and practices it on a very regular basis, someone like me really only used the process to figure out which Senator to write to. From there, I wrote my own letter.

It is generally better to be more personalized if you can. Simply put, it shows that you have your own thought process that happens to wind up with the same conclusions to the form letter rather than just blindly adding your name to a list of people who sent in a form letter. That is why if you can do it, it’s best to go personal and original.

For me, the legislation won’t immediately kill Frezenet. It will, however, severely kneecap it. If you have any expertise in this area, ask yourself how much harder it will be to run a website without access to sites like YouTube or any podcasting platform. Yeah, it will hurt and serve to significantly stunt chances for growth. Of course, an overarching problem in all of this is the fact that just because I might survive this nuclear attack on the Internet, it doesn’t mean others won’t get completely wiped out. Many Canadian creators rely on these platforms exclusively to make a living. If you run a YouTube channel and suddenly lose access to the whole platform, that can very easily be a career death sentence.

So, this letter is not just an attempt to save my own skin, but contribute to the overwhelming chorus of people in the know fighting to stop this terrible legislation. I don’t believe it will make a difference and I can see myself being opened to the risk of harassment after. Inaction, however, would be worse. So, here is the letter I sent to my Senator:

[Dear] [removed],

I am writing to you as a concerned Canadian and online creator. I am asking you to support amendments to Bill C-11.

This legislation impacts me personally and no form letter is ever going to encapsulate my perspective on things. In 2013, I founded a website called Freezenet to discuss the world of technology news as it impacts digital rights. It was a very slow process complete with pretty much every hurdle one could imagine and more. Help in building this website was extremely limited, but over the years, I was able to build up this website despite the obstacles that were thrown down in front of me. I fought through doubters, haters, and plenty of people trying to convince me to give up on my dreams.

Of course, today, it isn’t enough just to build a website and hope for success. You need a multi-platform strategy spread across a multitude of platforms if you want an edge on others. So, in the last couple of years, I have created an audio podcast that, today, can be heard across a dozen podcasting platforms. I took things a step further and created a video podcast that is currently on YouTube and, I hope, will be diversified to other video sharing platforms as well. The goal is simple: be “discoverable” across as many platforms as humanly possible to increase overall visibility of the Freezenet brand.

To my dismay, over the last couple of years, I have witnessed the government pushing legislation that threatens to undermine a huge component of my campaign to raise awareness of my website and the amazing services it provides despite so few resources being made available to me. From the legislation’s perspective, because my content I made available across multiple platforms, my multi-media productions are considered “commercial” and should be regulated. Further, because ads appear next to some of the productions I have made, that my productions are also considered “commercial” and, therefore, should be regulated.

The truth in the matter is that despite the many platforms that my work appears on, I do not make a single penny off of it. To date, the only way my operations generate revenue of any kind is through Google Adsense on the website itself – something that is outside of the scope of this bill. Yet, it appears that my work is going to be regulated anyway as if I am sitting here making money hand over fist on these productions.

While my productions are produced by myself, thus making these productions made only by Canadian’s, my productions simply do not fall within the scope of the CRTC’s points system. This is for the simple reason that I do not have enough “people” to earn a sufficient number of points to qualify as “Canadian”.

The combination of these facts about the nature of my work would have a devastating impact on my chances of success. Because my work isn’t “Canadian” enough, the work will ultimately be demoted by the algorithms because of the Canadian government’s demands on what the algorithm outcome should be. The CRTC Chair, Ian Scott, has confirmed that this is the nature of the bill.

Further, Section 4.1(2) and Section 4.2 make it all to abundantly clear that my content is going to be regulated and the net to determine whether or not it’s going to be regulated is cast extremely wide for the CRTC.

The effect in all of this is that any traffic I personally get from posting my material on these other platforms is going to drop. Further, any chance that I should become large enough on any of these platforms to even earn revenue someday is going to become exceedingly unlikely. This as the algorithms will inevitably tell Canadian viewers to watch something produced by an organization like CTV or Global instead of recommending my content.

My overall hope for my website is to not only educate people on technology and digital rights, but also one day employ other’s, pay my fair share in taxes as a business, donate to charity, and find other ways to support my local community.

Bill C-11, should it pass as-is, would significantly undermine those hopes and dreams. There is a very real chance that, instead of someday creating a sizable business that betters society, my website could forever be just a passion project as I personally just struggle to pay the bills and make do with less.

Judging by recent hearings on Bill C-11 – at least at the House of Commons level, I am far from alone. Many Canadian YouTuber’s and TikTok creators have been very open to explaining how this legislation impacts them, how it impacts the industry they are in, and how best to move forward. The response from the Canadian government, so far, has ranged from flat out ignoring those voices to being outright hostile towards those voices – even to the point of tracking those individuals down on social media and harrassing those individuals in the process. That behaviour has shaped my perception of the Canadian government – and not in a good way.

The people who did come forward weren’t there to be some sort of Conservative hack. They weren’t there to just spread misinformation. They were there to help others better understand what their personal experiences are in the industry that they are in and what impacts the legislation is going to have on their own livelihoods. Some of those witnesses have experienced success beyond their wildest imaginations – and those success stories should be praised. Instead, they were shunned and insulted and reacted to with hostility.

It is because of those experiences that I have hesitated for so long to even send a message. If I explain that my chances of having a successful career are in jeopardy, am I going to be accused of being a racist? Is it because I don’t follow the government line that my e-mail will get ignored and/or deleted? For the latter, a part of me does believe it.

What I do know is that these people are fighting for their own livelihoods. There are thousands of Canadian creators out there trying to produce content for their audience and put a better light on society through their work. I am one of those individuals who is actively fighting for my chance to make a living. I honestly am wondering what it is even going to take for the government to actually listen to us. My understanding is that some creators are actively contemplating moving out of the country should this bill become law as-is. Others are probably considering the idea of shutting down their efforts entirely.

I honestly still don’t know what I’m going to do. I know that other bills that threaten the core website are forthcoming. This bill is going to cut off my chances for growth significantly. It makes me feel like I am staring down the barrel of a government regulatory weapon. If that trigger is pulled with an unreformed Bill C-11, I’m very likely going to see my career that started clear back in 2005 start coming to an end. I am begging you. Please do not do this. Please do not end my career along with so many others. It’s all I’ve really known that has been fulfilling and rewarding all these years. I have so much more to give to this world and having a government barring me from that would be devastating to me. Please remove user generated content from this bill by reforming this legislation.

Thank you for your time,
– Drew Wilson
freezenet.ca Founder

Again, I don’t think this will make a stitch of difference. However, I can honestly say I tried at every turn to put a stop to this. In all likelihood, because the letter doesn’t follow the government line, it will likely get flat out ignored. As far as I’m concerned, no amount of reasoning will turn the tide at this point. The marching orders are to destroy the Internet and that is probably what the Canadian Senate is going to do. The CEO of Rogers needs a bigger yacht and if it’s built on the skeletons of peoples online careers, so be it.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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