Freezenet’s Official Podcast: June 2021: Censor Wars: Episode 1: Battle for Free Speech

In the 32nd episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Censor Wars: Episode 1: Battle for Free Speech”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered in June 2021.

Welcome to the Public version of the Freezenet official podcast for June 2021. This episode is entitled “Censor Wars: Episode 1: Battle for Free Speech” after the continued effort to push through Bill C-10.

Also, we cover the CRTC decision that says that you clearly don’t pay enough for Internet and cell phone service as well as an update to the story about the RCMP’s use of Clearview AI.

In addition to that, we cover all the usual music and video game reviews as well as the reason why it is a bad idea to hide in a police station if you are trying to avoid police. All this and more on this month’s podcast!

You can check out our official podcast on Soundcloud or Anchor. Alternatively, you can take a listen below:

What follows is a transcript of this month’s episode:

Intro

Censor Wars: Episode 1: Battle for Free Speech

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to episode 32 of the Freezenet official podcast for June, 2021. Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Secret votes, gag orders, super motions, time extensions, and more used to continue the push to pass Bill C-10

CRTC decision to potentially cause Internet and Cell phone bills to skyrocket blasted by critics

… and Canada’s privacy commissioner rules that the RCMP broke privacy laws when it used Clearview AI

Top Stories

If you support free speech in Canada, the urge to send you fist through your own monitor probably hasn’t been more greater than this month. As we mentioned last month, Bill C-10 is ultimately a speech regulation bill. The general idea is that the CRTC gets to decide what is and is not “Canadian content”. After that, the specifically blessed content would ultimately get promoted. Meanwhile, anything not explicitly receiving this blessing would then get demoted and potentially lose new audiences. When we left off with this story last month, the push has almost exclusively been from the Liberal party. The legislation was opposed by creators, digital rights advocates, digital rights organizations, experts, and more.

This month, we saw that the Bloc had thrown their support behind the legislation. That alone was a significant development. This is because with the Liberals and the Bloc, the math works out so that the legislation is as good as passed. This is regardless of what is in the best interest of the country, logic, or reasoning. Politics, it seems, was going to rule the day.

Of course, at the core of the concerns is the now eliminated Section 4.1. That section was responsible for protecting the content posted by users. With the section stripped from the bill, user generated content would be hit with regulations. Previously, the Liberals, Bloc, and NDP all voted to scrap this section to ensure that user generated content would get hit with heavy regulations in this bill. Since that happened in the early stages of the debate, it was reasonable to wonder if the NDP voted against free speech by accident. This month, a motion was put forward in committee to restore Section 4.1. A vote to restore this section would single-handedly end the debate surrounding user generated content being regulated. Yes, the fix that would satisfy critics on this front was that dead simple.

This month, however, the Liberals, Bloc, and NDP all came together to vote down the restoration of Section 4.1. As a result, it sent a message loudly and clearly: the previous vote was no accident. The point of this legislation is to regulate user generated content. This is the intention of this legislation. Further, MPs are crystal clear that this is the intention – and that they fully intend to ensure that this becomes the legal reality.

As a result, the controversy exploded over the legislation. People were angrily saying that this moment will be remembered when the election is called. Others wondered if this marks the beginning of the end of free speech in Canada. What happened next made matters worse. The Liberals pushed to limit debate to mere hours before being put to a vote. Supporters of this legislation referred to this push as a “gag order” on debate. Many openly remarked how this was an effort to silence criticism of this bill.

That criticism of efforts to shut down debate grew louder after what happened next. The debate over the legislation sunk to downright pettiness. This after a government computer linked to Services Canada in Quebec was used to white-wash the Heritage Minister’s Wikipedia page. Prior to the edits, the entry noted how the legislation put forward by the Minister was controversial over concerns about free speech. That section was edited to say how criticisms of the legislation came from Conservatives and known critics of the Broadcasting Act. Therefore, all concerns are just misinformation. What ensued was a minor edit war to revert the page back to a fact driven entry.

This month, Google broke their silence on the legislation. They noted how YouTube is home to over 40,000 Canadian producers who have monetized their content. The search giant also pointed out that if Canada does, in fact, move forward with this legislation, it raises the question of what would happen if other countries decided to take these protectionist measures as well. That would have a devastating impact on creators as they would see their content demoted as a result. Obviously, Google is also financially motivated to oppose the legislation. As we noted, the giant will have to walk a thin line to be on reasonable footing in this debate. Those comments walk that fine line quite well as it kept the focus on Canadian creators.

After the gag orders were put in place, the NDP and Green Party both raised questions over the handling of this legislation. After all, if there are concerns about this legislation, why not debate these issues? Liberals, however, were steadfast in their opposition to allow any kind of debate on this legislation at all.

As that happened, iPolitics, a large Canadian publisher, decided to try and jump in to salvage the situation. They released an open letter supposedly “calling out” the Prime Minister. They argued that the Heritage Minister’s agenda was not moving forward fast enough. They are demanding that speech regulation Bill C-10, the destructive Link Tax, and the online harms bill be pushed through faster. As a result, the organization effectively deleted their own credibility on these subjects.

After the gag orders were put in place, the Liberals then pushed Bill C-10 to a vote. The secret lawmaking process involved a multitude of amendments that were never disclosed to the public prior to the vote. The amendments were never debated on, either. Each amendment was just referred to by number and party affiliation only.

When the votes were cast, the law was then finalized and kept in a shroud of secrecy. The public was disallowed from reading the legislation for the whole weekend. What’s more, the Liberals then started pushing gag orders onto the House of Commons to eliminate debate at that stage as well.

As that happened, Nigeria banned Twitter from being accessed in their country. Canada, for its part, joined other countries in condemning the move. They said that free speech is an essential cornerstone to democracy. This led to the obvious rebuttal by critics in that Canada was passing secret laws to curtail free speech at home while calling for free speech abroad. Said Michael Geist, the call rings hollow as Canada has lost the moral authority to raise concerns about free speech online.

On Monday, the legislation was finally made public. Since it was seemingly on the verge of being passed in the House of Commons, it made sense that we responded with an analysis quickly before the content of the bill became law. While there were some aspects that weren’t surprising – with this bill still regulating user generated content being an example – there were a few surprises that took us off guard. Section 6 listed a host of requirements in order for content to be considered “Canadian”. This includes requirements for the content to be translated into French and a variety of indigenous languages. Further, it is required that the content be promoting Canadian programming. Content is also required to reflect the regions multi-cultural nature. As we noted, those are extremely steep requirements if you are simply trying to show that you are Canadian.

What’s more is that Section 7 lists a host of information the CRTC can demand from a Canadian producer. This includes, and I am quoting from the text of the legislation here, “financial or commercial information,” “information related to programming,” “information related to audience measurement, other than information that could identify any individual audience member, and” “other information related to the provision of broadcasting services”.

Shortly after another gag order was demanded, we decided to reflect on what we read. The question we had was, why would this be in the legislation? If you think practically, the manpower needed to demand every YouTuber living in Canada to provide this information would be completely impractical. So, the question is, how would it be practical to regulate user generated content as so clearly laid out in Bill C-10? Well, Section 7, for us, provides a hint on how that can be accomplished. Usually, if you are being asked this huge range of questions, you, as the creator, are probably the one giving that information in exchange for something.

So, if blacklisting is not the option of choice, then whitelisting is the likely solution in this case. In short, a list of content is generated that is designated “Canadian”. After that, the CRTC can tell, for instance, YouTube, that this list of content is considered Canadian as determined by the government. Therefore, YouTube needs to manipulate the algorithms so that this content is always promoted. That way, if a Canadian wants to be considered “Canadian”, they would have to jump through these regulatory hoops so their content could also be promoted to a Canadian audience. At that point, the CRTC could theoretically ask these questions as mentioned in Section 7. Then, the CRTC can verify that the content is “Canadian”. This by running it through the list of requirements both in the legislation and whatever other determinations that the CRTC deems fit. This would obviously act as a deterrent for Canadian creators who would then be forced to see their content get demoted if it’s not Canadian enough. That is generally what we got out of the bill that we didn’t otherwise get.

While questions continued to swirl around the legitimacy of the secret lawmaking process, the situation for free speech seemed to be teetering on the brink of hopelessness. With the Liberals ramming this legislation through, seemingly being above democratic norms to make this happen, new hope suddenly emerged. After Bill C-10 was introduced into the House of Commons, the Speaker of the House, Anthony Rota, received a complaint from an MP about the process. In response, he agreed with this complaint and ruled that the Heritage Committee exceeded their authority in undergoing this secret lawmaking process. As a result, he ruled that the secret amendments were largely null and void (with one making it through on a technicality). He then ordered a reprint of the legislation without those amendments.

On the surface, this looks like just a minor setback for supporters, but put that into the context of how many sitting days are left, and this speed bump becomes a massive mountain. At the time, there were just six sitting days left in the House and just five sitting days left in the Senate. So, we’re talking about six sitting days to table, debate, and vote on the amendments that were once secret. After that, pass the legislation and send it over to the senate. After that, have the senate vote, and pass the legislation. Then, send it back to the House of Commons where it would receive royal assent. So, in one ruling, the wave of emotion went from total hopelessness to relief that this bill likely won’t pass with such extreme limitations.

One motion that was tabled was the motion to restore Section 4.1. While it was defeated in committee, this meant that MPs would be on record as voting for or against the one motion that would solve the single biggest problem in this legislation.

At this point, it became clear that Steven Guilbealt was also eyeing the clock. In response, Guildbeaut then tried to “introduce” the legislation into the Senate. This despite the fact that the legislation was barely tabled in the House of Commons. This effort to circumvent democracy received backlash from senators who called the move “insulting”. In the process, the Minister appeared to be burning the bridges with the very people he hoped would pull strings and rubber stamp the legislation without question.

With four sitting days left, other observers began pointing out what we had been pointing out: the time crunch is a very real threat to this legislation. With the ruling by the Speaker of the House of Commons effectively delaying the legislation, four days is practically no time to pass the legislation. With the senate getting upset at the Minister already, it seemed to be all but over.

Google and the Internet Archive also spoke out. Google, for their part, pointed to all the Canadian success stories there are under the natural free market found on YouTube’s ecosystem. The Internet Archive also said that they were joining digital rights organizations in condemning Bill C-10.

That’s when the fortune began to change against free speech supporters. With three sitting days left, the motion to protect user generated content was defeated by the Liberals, Bloc, and NDP. This marked the third time MPs voted against this critical protection. It also sent a strong message that MPs did not stutter. The aim, and intent, of this legislation is to regulate free speech. If two votes wasn’t enough to convince you, then the third vote should get it through your thick skull.

Then, with two sitting days left, MPs rushed through the process of passing Bill C-10. In the dead of night, while Canadians slept, Bill C-10 passed the House of Commons at 1:30AM. It was news no one was wanting to hear. The impossible comeback for indirect censorship was seemingly happening before everyone’s eyes. Still, Senators expressed resistance, saying that there is “zero” chance that this legislation is going to pass before the break. If that does come to fruition, then the likely election during the break would mean the bill dies on the order-paper. So, Canadians had every reason to believe that, while it was an impressive accomplishment to revive Bill C-10’s chances, free speech was still likely going to survive this one.

As that happened, we here at Freezenet couldn’t help but notice the massive amounts of misinformation circulating social media on this legislation. While we tried to correct the record, many of these trolls fought back with conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated claims. One by one, they realized who they were dealing with. Some rage quit and blocked us. Others were reduced down to hurling insults at us. Still, most moved on to try and spread this misinformation to others, damaging public discourse in the process. So, in response, we published a sheet of myths and facts about the legislation – all inspired by those trolls hoping to get misleading and false information to circulate in the public.

Among the myths we debunked include the myth that opponents are just Conservative (many opponents are non-partisan and Conservatives actually came late to this debate), that Bill C-10 will benefit all Canadian producers (it doesn’t, it tilts the playing field into the favour of legacy corporations operating in Canada), that Bill C-10 fights misinformation online (no provision in Bill C-10 that we saw regulates the accuracy of user generated content), and that Bill C-10 came about after extensive consultation and debate (quite the opposite. No Internet first producer was ever consulted on this legislation, experts in the field were left out, and the process is filled with instances of gag orders and even a so-called “super motion” to cut down and limit debate).

So, with the House of Commons failing to defend the interest of Canadians, the legislative process is now coming down to the senate. On the final sitting day, the Senate agreed to extend the sitting days in order to pass Bill C-10. This additional decision, seemingly out of the democratic norms, meant that Bill C-10 was resurrected from the dead and more motivated than ever before to wreak havoc on user generated content. As a result, we are left here today with free speech hanging on by a single decision. That decision being on whether or not the Canadian Senate will actually protect the interests of Canadians or not. Failing that, then free speech is hanging on by a thread because the only option left after that is litigation.

With so much high stakes drama going on in Canada with Bill C-10, it almost made everything else seem like a minor footnote by comparison. Still, this second story is certainly fittingly placed in the number two position. Canada’s telecoms regulator, the CRTC, has handed down a decision that reverses an earlier decision to keep cell phone and Internet rates low.

In 2019, after hearing about accusations of keeping cost markups high for re-selling purposes, the CRTC put a cap on those prices. As a result, independently run Internet Service Providers could provide lower rates to consumers. The result of the wholesale rate drop meant that the market kept prices lower. With this months decision to overturn it, the CRTC has effectively given the green light to raise Internet and cell phone rates. If buyers of wholesale bandwidth are forced to raise rates, that gives larger players all the reason in the world to raise rates as well. Simple economics.

In response, Teksavvy, one of the most well known independent providers, announced that they will pull out of the cell phone market entirely because of those cost increases.

Shortly after, TekSavvy went even further and called for Ian Scott to be fired as chair of the CRTC. Meanwhile, Open Media Executive Director, Laura Tribe, made her own comments on the decision, saying, in part, “It’s appalling to see that the CRTC has once again sided with Big Telecom. It’s clear they couldn’t care less about consumers, affordability, or small providers. This is the most anti-customer decision I’ve ever seen from the Commission. They effectively decided it would be too much work to get the rates right, so they’re just giving up – on their own work, on small internet providers, and Canadians. And if that wasn’t enough, they continue to double-down on their dogmatic faith in ‘facilities-based competition’ – the same model that for decades has failed to lower prices, or deliver sufficient speeds to those in rural and remote areas.”

The opposition reached the federal level with the NDP openly criticizing the decision. Telecom critic, Brian Masse, said that Canadians will pay the cost of the CRTC decision.

Finally, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner has released a report about the RCMP’s use of Clearview AI. In past months, we reported on how the Canadian RCMP were using the privacy invasive Clearview AI technology. Initially, the RCMP denied they were using the software. Later on, as questions intensified, the police force later admitted that they did use the software, but only a few officers were trying it as a trial run. After questions about who knew what when kept mounting, reports surfaced that the police board knew about these trials, proving that this wasn’t just some pet project by a few officers.

In February, multiple privacy commissioners said that they were investigating this incident. As we know about the terrible state of privacy laws today, the announcement had the promise of a strongly worded letter at the end of this whole thing. This month, the commissioners released their report. The report said that the RCMP did violate Canadian privacy laws when using the software. “The use of facial recognition technology by the RCMP to search through massive repositories of Canadians who are innocent of any suspicion of crime presents a serious violation of privacy” Daniel Therrien said in the report, “A government institution cannot collect personal information from a third party agent if that third party agent collected the information unlawfully.”

There, that’ll teach ’em! Fines? Reprimands? Actual consequences? What are you talking about? The letter was strongly worded, isn’t that enough?

While the top three stories did nearly drown out other news happening this month, we were able to write a few other reports. So, let’s take a look at some of the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

The corporate conglomerates are getting larger and more concentrated. While this has been happening for decades, a recent development put a small twist to all of this. Large tech giant, Amazon, announced that they are buying major movie studio, MGM. The price tag comes to a total of $8.45 billion. The buyout means that Amazon gets a host of new intellectual property added to their inventory. This includes the James Bond franchise, Rocky, RoboCop and Pink Panther to name a few famouse titles. The worry, once again, is the disappearance of competition in the market. With Amazon being the buyer, it adds the twist that another industry is now eating away at the entertainment market at this point.

This month, I wrote an editorial on the Canadian Pirate Party. While the political party hasn’t been seen in two elections, I argue that the case for their existence has never been stronger. With no real movement on affordable internet access in rural and indigenous communities, a Rogers Shaw deal that could see cell phone and Internet rates skyrocket, Bill C-10 threatening smaller Canadian creators speech, an online harms bill that could be used to silence speech, efforts to reboot the push for Internet censorship, and a lack of movement on Canada’s privacy reform efforts, the environment is ripe for the Canadian Pirate Party to make a comeback. This especially after the NDP and Green Party supported the speech regulation efforts through Bill C-10. That has left Canadians who value digital rights without a voice in Ottawa. Unfortunately, it seems as though the party won’t be making a return this time around either.

Video Game Reviews

With so much intensity happening this month, it only makes sense to offer something less tense. So, let’s take a look at some of the entertainment we covered this month.

Before we get into the video game reviews, I wanted to point out the first impression video’s we’ve posted this month.

For this month’s Steam game, we played the game Just Cause. You can check out the video directly on our site or via YouTub.

After that, we played the Playstation 3 game, Gran Turismo 5. What we encountered in that game early on can also be seen directly on our site or via YouTube.

As always, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel and turn on notifications to get realtime updates on what video’s we’ve posted.

Now, here are video games we’ve reviewed this month:

First, we tried Grand Theft Auto 2 for the Game Boy Color. New open world system and different gangs spices up the action, but buggy missions really holds this game back. So, this one gets a 58%.

Next up is Rampart for the Game Boy Color. A game that has a good depth of strategy despite it looking simple on the surface. So, that one get’s a great 80%.

After that, we tried Rampage World Tour for the Game Boy Color. A stripped down version from the N64 that leaves this game repetitive. So, this one gets a barely passable 54%.

Finally, we tried Monopoly for the Game Boy Color. Lack of save system doesn’t help things, but this one is otherwise a good game to play all around. So, this one scores a solid 74%.

Music Reviews

As for music we’ve listened to this month, we’ve got…

Jesus Jones – Zeros and Ones

Accept – All or Nothing

808 State – One in Ten

Belly – Feed the Tree

Paul McCartney – Hope and Deliverance

Lexwood Ft. Ferrin & Low – Chimaera (Original Mix)

Quicksand – Fazer

Jellyfish – He’s My Best Friend

… and finally, Dinosaur Jr. – Start Choppin’

Picks of the Month

So, that leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Rampart for the Game Boy Color. Also, be sure to check out Lexwood Ft. Ferrin & Low – Chimaera (Original Mix).

Oddities

and in other news

There is a fine line between gutsy and stupidity. For one thief in North Carolina, stealing the sheriff’s SUV right out from the police station would certainly qualify as gutsy. Of course, crossing that line into stupidity is the fact that the thief got caught right after. D’oh!

British police had quite an interesting incident. The Thames Valley Police were chasing a suspect in another vehicle. In a last ditch effort to lose the police, the suspect ditched his vehicle so he could hide in a nearby building. Obviously, that can serve to complicate the chase because it’s possible that the police don’t know what they are getting into by chasing said suspect into a building. Well, in this case, the police had nothing to worry about. This is because the suspect decided to try and hide inside an active police station. Suffice to say, the chase didn’t last much longer with the suspect being arrested. Probably should’ve checked that sign outside before running inside methinks.

McLennan County game wardens had their own interesting incident this month. They notice a driver swerving all over the road near Lake Waco. Suspecting that the suspect might have been drinking, they pulled the pickup truck over. When they approached the vehicle, the stereo was on very loudly. The suspect, clearly intoxicated, complained that he was having a hard time figuring out the radio to turn it down. So, he did what any brilliant individual would do in a situation like that: ask the officers to hold on to his open beer while he figured it out of course! After handing the officer his beer, the officers decided to conduct a field sobriety test. The driver obviously failed it and he was arrested after. Here, hold my beer!

Outro

So, before we close out this months episode, we wanted to point out that we are still adding content to the Wiki, just at a slower than expected rate due to things getting rather busy. Still, we are catching up on posting and generating content, so we are hoping to make up for it by posting a full patch worth of content sometime in the next month. So, stay tuned for that!

Also, huge shout out to Nolan for providing mixing services.

If you’d like to get your hands on some behind the scenes stuff, exclusive content, and early access material, you can check out our Patreon page at Patreon.com/freezenet. Through this, you can help make Freezenet just that much better all the while getting some pretty cool stuff in the process. That’s Patreon.com/freezenet!

Alternatively, you can simply buy us a coffee via ko-fi.com/freezenet!

…and that’s this months episode for June, 2021. I’m Drew Wilson for Freezenet. Be sure to check out our website at freezenet.ca for all the latest in news and reviews. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Thank you for listening and see you next month.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: