Fairplay Canada Faces Accusations of CRTC Backroom Dealing

Just as things didn’t seem to be any worse for the lobbying efforts behind Internet censorship, Fairplay Canada is now in the midst of political controversy.

Fairplay Canada, the coalition fighting to institute Internet censorship in Canada, has been having quite a rough time these days. At first, things were going well as they emerged with the backing of a surprising number of organizations joined forces to call for Internet censorship at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Unfortunately for FairPlay Canada, things have been going downhill ever since.

Just when things didn’t seem like they could get any worse for the effort to censor the Internet, they did. A potential political scandal is currently unfolding for the lobby group. It started with revelations that Bell, a leading censorship proponent within the coalition, met privately with the Canadian regulator months before the debate went public. Discussions revolved around the Internet censorship with Bell offering presentations as part of their discussions. The image that this can produce, obviously, is that Bell is basically being given preferential treatment – especially given that there needed to be a massive pushback to stunt the effort since.

Knowing how bad this looks, Bell spoke to Mobile Syrup to try and downplay the effort and deny that they were meeting privately with the regulator in the first place:

However, Bell told MobileSyrup it did not review the FairPlay Canada application with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

However, in response to MobileSyrup‘s request for comment, a Bell spokesperson stated: “Bell has not met with CRTC commissioners to review the FairPlay application.”

The site also requested comment from the CRTC. Spokesperson Patricia Valladao responded:

“The CRTC staff meet with all stakeholders, including consumer groups, on a regular basis. In doing this, [the stakeholders] are free to raise any issues that are not before the commission. So there is nothing procedurally unusual in this case.”

Valladao further stated that the September 2017 meeting referred to in the documents was not specifically made to discuss FairPlay, reiterating that Bell was free to bring up any issue that was not in front of the Commission.

“Once the issue is filed, it’s not something discussed within the department,” she said.

Still, Lawford told MobileSyrup he remained displeased with the CRTC’s decision to meet with Bell:

“It sounds like from the email that it was a pretty full-formed presentation, which was largely in the form of a legal argument… so to me, there should have been better judgement.”

In response to this, Michael Geist went ahead and published the full presentation slides given to the CRTC to the public could judge for themselves what happened.

This latest potential scandal is probably about the last thing the pro-censorship coalition needs right now. Already, the court of public opinion is very much against Internet censorship. Expert opinion is also against Internet censorship. Shareholder information shows that even coalition members aren’t really losing money to piracy after all, so the evidence is against the coalition. The censorship proposal is already an international embarrassment. There was already controversy with Fairplay Canada using pressure tactics and threats to curry favour and suppress dissent for censorship. To cap it all off, the bi-partisan House of Commons Ethics Committee recommended against Internet censorship.

At this point, what the coalition needed is something to reinvigorate the cause of censoring the Internet. What we are seeing is pretty much the polar opposite of what their cause needed right now. It’s not unreasonable to wonder if the coalition decided to just go down big at this point as their cause goes down in flames.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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