Liberal MP’s: People Who Oppose Bill C-11 are Just Pushing a Disinformation Campaign

There’s been an uprising in opposition against Bill C-11. So, Liberals dismiss it all as just a disinformation campaign.

Bill C-11 is currently making its way through the parliamentary process. It has sparked loads of opposition from creators to experts to ordinary users alike. People like us have been very meticulous about making sure that comments about Bill C-11 are as fact based as possible. The whole basis of our perspective comes from the text of the legislation. It’s not some kind of massive conspiracy to just make stuff up and put words into the bill that aren’t actually there.

While we have seen plenty of disinformation from supporters of the legislation, we haven’t seen anything really concrete to this day that actually justifies the legislation. A common theme we’ve seen is “I don’t think” or “the bills intention” or even “they wouldn’t REALLY do that”. The problem is, some fuzzy theoretical of what you think would happen is simply not good enough. Look at the bill, point to a passage, explain. Concrete examples and concrete analysis goes a long way. Yet, we have seen very few, if any, supporter actually do so.

Other supporters have taken the tactic that opposition only comes from Conservatives and Conservatives just oppose everything for the sake of opposing everything. For one, this completely misrepresents who is opposing the legislation in the first place. It also is an admission that you don’t have a clue who you are debating in that instance. The reality is that many who are opposed to the legislation come from a wide variety of backgrounds. This includes people of all political stripes, professions, and perspectives. The fact that there is the dynamic that the Conservative party being the only party to consistently oppose it is actually an uncomfortable aspect of this debate for non-partisan perspectives.

While there are loads of other nuances to this debate that we could get into, we’d rather not bore you with the details in a preamble that goes on endlessly. There are some highlights of a recent debate about Bill C-11. To put it mildly, its depressing and pathetic. It basically showcases politician’s who often know very little about the very subject they are debating and pretending that they are the all knowing experts of the universe on the subject. In short, a number of politicians wound up looking like idiots here.

Michael Geist is offering highlights of some of the exchanges, but we thought we’d offer our own takes on things.

Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia stated “the only thing Bill C-11 does, in reality, is require online distribution networks to offer a wider range of viewpoints and products and that ultimately, this will improve democracy here in Canada” (not quite: it does far more and it doesn’t require services to offer a wider range of viewpoints or products), Liberal MP Patrick Weiler attributed criticism of Bill C-11 to an organized campaign of misinformation and disinformation, and Liberal MP Ken Hardie maintained the CRTC was the best entity to regulate the Internet.

Let’s break out the tinfoil hats and assume that all of the logical leaps are possible and that there is a massive Illuminati level conspiracy by people to spread misinformation and disinformation about Bill C-11. To what end are people like us trying to put a stop to Bill C-11. As far as I’m concerned, the experts and organizations that are opposed to this have been extremely upfront in beating to death why they are opposed to this legislation. Many, including myself, explain at length what the legislation does, what provisions do what, and why we think the way we do. If there is some sort of mystical ulterior motive hidden behind the scenes, we honestly can’t think of it.

Geist is correct in saying that the legislation does not “require online distribution networks to offer a wider range of viewpoints”. In fact, platforms are very open to different viewpoints. It seemed like only yesterday that politicians and media outlets were wringing their hands over how misinformation is permeating on these platforms and that platforms needed to do more to crack down on malicious content. Now, here we are, in this debate, where Liberals are now saying that the platforms have the exact opposite problem. It’s bizarre that this is even an argument for the legislation in the first place. The least these politicians can do is make up their mind as to what the problem is here.

The reality of the legislation is that it would actually reduce voices and suppress viewpoints. When the government demands that certain kinds of content would get promoted, other kinds of content will get demoted. There’s only so many little squares to go around in the recommendations. This isn’t some weird theory plucked out of thin air, it’s basic arithmetic. Who gets promoted? Whoever the government considers “Canadian” enough. What is considered “Canadian” enough? It’s a series of hoops to jump over that most creators (including us) won’t qualify.

So, who will inherently qualify? Large legacy media corporations. They have the funding and production capacity already in place to already be considered “Canadian”. The smaller TikTok users Twitch streamers and YouTubers? Sorry, you are out of luck. It’s all thanks to grossly outdated guidelines on what can be determined Canadian. These rules were envisioned when the VHS tape was on the rise and the Internet was barely something people even heard of, let alone use. The CRTC, who manages these rules, hasn’t bothered to update these rules in decades and are in no hurry to do so now.

So, you have two effects of the legislation. For one, those who don’t have the big multi-million dollar backing and shareholders to please, they’ll quickly get swept aside. For another, those large legacy players will take their place. For the users in Canada, this is going to suck a lot. This is because the people they so often watch on their respective platforms will wind up getting replaced by the very content they wanted to avoid in the first place: the garbage that airs on Canadian TV today. This includes the abominations of Big Brother Canada and Family Feud Canada – programming so bad that actual trash sitting in the corner actually looks appealing to watch by comparison.

Another gem from the debate was apparently this:

There was also this question from NDP MP Lori Idlout regarding the indigenous streaming service IsumaTV:

Uqaqtittiji, I was struck by a question the member asked, and here is my question for him: What is stopping Canadians from watching indigenous online streaming services like IsumaTV? The answer is, American streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+. Does the member truly believe that without this bill Isuma will ever achieve the fair Canadian audiences it deserves?

This is coming from an NDP supporter: say stupid comments, get your intelligence insulted. You open up Google, type in IsumaTV, subscribe if you need to, and start watching. Is that really that hard to do? Since this is the second time we had to explain a search bar to a Bill C-11 supporter, we can only assume that this really is too hard to accomplish. Fortunately, there is a service that Googles things for you, so here’s a link to a service that actually types in the search term for you and searches. Like the site says, was that really so hard to do?

The bottom line is that these other streaming services aren’t stopping Canadians from watching other services. This never has been an issue and it is unlikely that it ever will happen.

On top of that was this exchange:

Mr. Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have repeatedly said that the bill regulates the platform, not content or users. However, proposed section 4.2 says that the CRTC can create regulations that treat content uploaded to social media services as programs to be regulated by considering three factors: one, whether the program that is uploaded might cause direct or indirect revenue generation; two, if the program has been broadcast by an undertaking that is either licensed or registered with the CRTC; and three, if the program has been assigned a unique identifier under a standard system. The law does not tell the CRTC how to weigh those factors, but the bottom line is that this might apply. Michael Geist has said, “TikTok videos that are uploaded to the service may generate indirect revenue. That content is available on licensed services and the music has a unique identifier. The same is true for many YouTube or Instagram videos.” What is my hon. colleague’s response to that concern that proposed section 4.2 does permit in at least certain circumstances the regulation of content?

Mr. Ryan Turnbull: Mr. Speaker, my thanks to the hon. member for a good faith question. I appreciate it. The way I read the bill, and I have the section in front of me, is that this is how the bill defines commercial content and commercial content is part of how we define whether someone is broadcasting or not using a streaming service. In many ways, this is part of the definition of being able to determine whether Canadian content should be promoted. I think that is the intention of the bill, that broadcasters that are already promoting commercial content and distributing that are subject to the same regulations that other broadcasters are. That intention is very clearly laid out in the bill. It is very specifically and clearly not to regulate the user-generated content.

To put it another way, Turnbull is basically admitting that he has no idea how some of these platforms work. For a number of platforms, when content is posted, an ad appears. These ads typically benefit the platform. Some platforms do engage in sharing the revenue with creators, but not all of them. Regardless, if the difference between content that is regulated and content that is not is whether or not money changes hands, then whole platforms are automatically considered “broadcasters” regardless of what the users do.

YouTube is a very mixed bag on this front. It is, indeed, possible to post content that is ad free. The problem revolves around a system known as ContentID. ContentID is notoriously bad for flagging content that shouldn’t be flagged. What’s more is that it doesn’t distinguish content that contains content that is fair dealing or content that doesn’t fall in that category. It simply assumes all uses of copyrighted work is not fair dealing and automatically moderates accordingly. It’s terrible and this has been fought against for years, but that’s how it is.

One way in which content can be flagged is that rights holders demand ads be placed on your video and they get the ad revenue after. It’s more or less a form of commercial piracy on the part of the rights holders, but that’s how things work on YouTube. So, if you regularly post content, maybe a radio happens to be playing in the background or someone is playing a video game. On the surface, that seems innocuous. However, ContentID will flag it regardless of how prominent that song is on the video. What the right holder can demand is that ads be placed on that video. According to the legislation, that will make you a broadcaster whether or not you even realize it. So, the next thing you know, you are going to have your content regulated whether you realize it or not.

This scenario is far from unrealistic. In fact, anyone can suddenly have their videos be considered commercial content simply because of a flag that gets automatically placed on your video. A vast majority of people out there won’t be well versed in these kinds of things and this problem will very likely crop up under this legislation should it become law. Since it is next to impossible for smaller creators to jump through all the regulatory hoops, then YouTube will have no choice but to demote you because you failed to meet the qualifications of being considered “Canadian content” (or “cancon”).

Further, the remarks that say how this bill is simply distinguishing the platform and the users is pure nonsense. Why? It’s this section of the bill that makes that clear:

4.‍2 (1) For the purposes of paragraph 4.‍1(2)‍(b), the Commission may make regulations prescribing programs in respect of which this Act applies.

In other words, the CRTC can easily make a determination as to whether or not content is regulated or not. It’s really that simple. If the government was truly honest in saying that the bill does not regulate user generated content, then it would start by removing Section 4.1 (2)(3)(4) and Section 4.2 from the bill. It doesn’t solve all the problems in this bill, but it does go a long way in fixing the concerns. Of course, as we all know from the Bill C-10 debate, lobbyists have pushed the government to specifically regulate user generated content. Whether its through stupid backdoor provisions or more directly through the approach that we’ve seen in the last debate, that is the end-game for the government and has been for some time now.

Finally, there is this snippet:

Mr. John Nater (Perth—Wellington, CPC): Mr. Speaker, will the government commit to releasing its policy directive to the CRTC before voting on Bill C-11?

Right Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we know how important it is to ensure that Canadian producers and Canadian creators of content resonate, not just across the country, but around the world. We have always had measures in Canada that promote Canadian music and content on Canadian TV and Canadian radio. That is something we have long had, to protect Canadian content creators. Unfortunately, once again, Conservative politicians stand against the arts community and creators. We believe in making sure Canadians can succeed around the world, and in a digital world, that is what we are doing.

Mr. John Nater (Perth—Wellington, CPC): Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister is so proud of his approach, why does he not simply release the policy directive that he will be sending to the CRTC to implement this law? This “just trust us” approach does not inspire confidence in the Canadian people. The government is asking an entity that has neither the capacity nor the competence to regulate vast swaths of the Internet, but the government will not disclose how it will instruct it to do so. Canadians are rightly concerned about how this will impact what they see and hear online. Why is the government asking Parliament to give the CRTC more power over Canadians without telling Canadians what the CRTC will be doing with that power?

Right Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in this country, the CRTC has always ensured that we promote Canadian creators creating Canadian content. That is what it has done on the radio waves for decades, ensuring that we have Canadian music played on radio stations. That is what it has done with TV, ensuring that Canadian content gets put on Canadian TV, not just as a way of telling our stories, but also as a way of encouraging creators and producers in Canada. In a digital world, we need to ensure, in the same way, that Canadian producers of content are protected and upheld, and that is exactly what Bill C-11 would do.

In a nutshell, the approach the CRTC will take to regulate the Internet is top secret. This is a continuation of the controversy where lawmakers said that they will reveal their plans to regulate the Internet in detail only after the bill receives royal assent. After all, wouldn’t want that pesky thing like transparency and open debate to get in the way of pushing your own vision of how the Internet should be run.

Geist rightfully notes that there really is no reason to not publish the plans in advance of the legislation. It shouldn’t be any secret given that there is no reason to hide it. Yet, here we are with a government refusing to be transparent about this. What’s more is that there is nothing stopping the government from changing these regulations at a future time.

The governments approach has been flawed from the very beginning. It failed to take into consideration how these platforms operate, failed to take into consideration the needs of the creators, and failed to take into account how users would be impacted by all of this. Lawmakers took the approach that the Internet is nothing more than just another cable TV channel and just assumed that simply taking regulations that exist for those stations would work just as well on the Internet. In their eyes, there’s very little difference between TV and the Internet. The reality is that the Internet is massively different from TV. While it isn’t the problems of Canadian’s that the government still doesn’t understand this in 2022, it will be the problem of Canadians when the regulations wind up being a massive disaster in the end.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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