Myths and Facts About Bill C-10 (Debunking the Misinformation)

Throughout the debate, we’ve seen a lot of misinformation about Bill C-10 and what is and is not in the legislation. This article is an attempt to debunk as many myths as possible.

As we make it into the final days of the legislative process of Bill C-10, we’ve noted an uptick in misinformation spread on social media. Much of this misinformation appears to originate from hyper-partisan supporters of the Liberal party, but some of it actually comes from officials themselves. These myths often get recycled over time and it can be quite taxing to keep debunking these same myths over and over again. So, in an effort to provide a centralized source for what is and is not in Bill C-10, we’ve collected as many myths as we can find and just debunk them all in one fell swoop.

This also gets around the fact that some supporters of this legislation are no actively blocking our presence mainly because they quickly realize that they are dealing with someone who is very knowledgeable about this legislation. Rather than take on an information and knowledge behemoth such as ourselves, they often try and target those less informed. So, we hope this information will also help arm those who may not know the detailed facts about this legislation.

Myth 1: Bill C-10 Does Not Regulate User Generated Content/Section 2.1 Protects User Generated Content from Regulation.

Fact: Section 2.1, as we previously shown, explicitly protects a “person”. It means that the person behind the content is not regulated. However, Section 2.1 does not protect the content the “person” produces and posts online. This exception was explicitly reserved for Section 4.1 which has been removed from the legislation.

Myth 2: Opponents of Bill C-10 are just Conservatives.

Fact: Conservatives actually came quite late to this party. Politically speaking, the opposition seems to be due to finding political weakness within the Liberal party thanks to this legislation. The reality is that observers such as myself, Michael Geist, Open Media, and others are actually non-partisan. In fact, in May, an open letter was signed by a broad range of organizations, experts, digital rights advocates, business leaders, and more denouncing the legislation.

For full transparency, we are opposed to this legislation because it represents a threat to the operations of this site.

Myth 3: Bill C-10 is just about levelling the playing field and making big tech pay. Any mention of user generated content being regulated is just misinformation.

Fact: There are provisions in Bill C-10 aimed at compelling large platforms to pay into a Canadian content fund. Opponents don’t actually typically deny this aspect of the legislation. However, this myth is typically a deflection to the core issue and is often brought up when challenged on the provisions surrounding user generated content. If it is just misinformation that user generated content is even part of this legislation, that conflicts directly with the existence of Section 2.1 as well as the fact that Section 4.1 was removed.

Myth 4: Bill C-10 legislation will benefit all Canadian producers of content online.

Fact: This legislation has been heavily lobbied for by large Canadian corporations and the text makes it very clear why. The intention of this legislation is to erect barriers to newer producers of content online. This heavily favours the larger corporations operating within Canada while handing a disadvantage to Canadian producers. Section 6, as we analyzed, demands some very high end requirements for content to be deemed “Canadian” such as content being required to promote other Canadian content, requiring that the program reflects indigenous voices, translations into French and English, and “reflect Canada’s regions and multicultural nature” among other things.

Further more, Section 7 also lists some very high requirements for users to beg for their content to be considered Canadian. The CRTC can demand, among other things, “financial or commercial information”, “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”. We’re not paraphrasing anything here, those are quoted directly from the text of the legislation itself.

All a rational person has to do is contemplate how someone with a borrowed camera, little to no knowledge of cancon requirements, and no financial resources would do compared to a large corporation with millions of dollars in budgets and an entire staff producing content. It becomes immediately clear who would win with these kinds of requirements being put in place.

Myth 5: Bill C-10 will fight misinformation online.

Fact: A very out of left field argument to make. The truth in the matter is that Bill C-10 does not contain provisions about misinformation online or about moderating the veracity of content online. Instead, as we mentioned above, it is about changing the algorithms to conform to the demands of the CRTC – an arm of the Canadian government. To date, of those who argue that this legislation will fight misinformation online, none have cited the actual portions of this bill that confirms this myth (probably because it doesn’t exits).

Myth 6: Bill C-10 will only move content down a few inches on a platform. That’s no big deal.

Fact: This argument alone actually admits that this regulates user generated content. Nevertheless, to make this argument is to tell the entire SEO (Search Engine Optimization) industry that they are all wrong. It’s bold… and very very stupid. On any platform, whether it be Reddit, YouTube, Slashdot, the front page is prime real estate for anyone’s content. We know this first hand over the years. A link on Fark.com can net a website 15,000 additional clicks. Slashdot’s front page, at least in years past, can see a spike of an additional 30,000 clicks. Reddit’s main pages can net pages hundreds of thousands, if not, millions of clicks depending on how well a particular link can perform. To say that this is huge is a massive understatement.

If your page appears in a top result of a search query in Google, that is also huge. One site says that a high ranking page on a query can net 36.4% of the traffic of that query. Meanwhile, Forbes offers even more optimistic statistics:

According to Moz, the first page of Google captures 71% of search traffic clicks and has been reported to be as high as 92% in recent years. Second-page results are far from a close second coming in at below 6% of all website clicks.

As for YouTube? Well, just browse the front page and note the views each video has:

Making it onto the front page of YouTube is so huge, that video’s are just measured by the millions of views. If you are randomly somewhere on YouTube, you can easily post video’s that get no views at all. What’s more is that users can also monetize their video’s. If a video has ads and is getting millions of views, there is no question you are getting the cash.

Now imagine what will happen if the CRTC intervenes and tells YouTube that they can only show certain corporate produced video can get those top spaces. Even if a smaller Canadian producer is producing a video that would otherwise manage to make it onto the front page, getting pushed down because of government market intervention could have a huge negative impact on a YouTuber’s success.

The bottom line is that medium size players can spend a mint just to make their content appear a notch or two higher on results or ensuring that their video gets to the front page. It is with good reason why they would do this because the payoff is massive. By forcing content to get pushed down for the sake of increasing the visibility of specifically blessed content by the CRTC could easily deny the creators of tomorrow to see the success that they would otherwise see.

Myth 7: Bill C-10 was brought about after extensive consultation and debate.

Fact: The process of which Bill C-10 went through is actually the opposite of this. This is through multiple “gag orders” and even a “super motion” to reduce, eliminate, or bar debate. Experts have repeatedly blasted the process as having an absolute lack of consultation:

Given the woefully inadequate Canadian Heritage committee hearings with the exclusion of digital-first Canadian creators, technology companies, consumer groups, and numerous independent experts as well as the passage of amendments without debate, discussion or experts, Bill C-10 desperately needs a comprehensive review.

The bottom line is that the people who would be impacted the most have no say in this legislation.

Myth 8: Opponents of this legislation are not defending the right to free speech, but rather, their right to reach.

Fact: The opposite is actually true. Bill C-10, as noted repeatedly above, is all about the promotion of certain content and demotion of other content. This is regardless of political opinion or political leaning. The reason why free speech is so often brought up is because speech is not only being impacted, but being impacted by the government. Further, the concern is that if the government is mandating changes to algorithms of various platforms, it opens the door to the possibility that the government could mandate further changes that is based on leanings or opinions at a future time. This could be brought about by the current government or a future government headed by a different political party. This is partly why these discussions about expression are so sensitive.

Another reason why the Canadian government regulating content is so sensitive is the fact that it raises questions about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 2 of the Charter reads as follows:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

a. freedom of conscience and religion;
b. freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c. freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d. freedom of association.

Case law that further delves into this topic has a lot to say about Section 2b:

The Supreme Court has adopted the following three-part test for analyzing section 2(b): 1) Does the activity in question have expressive content, thereby bringing it within section 2(b) protection?; 2) Does the method or location of this expression remove that protection?; and 3) If the expression is protected by section 2(b), does the government action in question infringe that protection, either in purpose or effect? (Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 SCC 2 (“Canadian Broadcasting Corp.”); Montréal (City) v. 2952-1366 Québec Inc., [2005] 3 S.C.R. 141; Irwin Toy Ltd., supra.)

Where the purpose of a government action is to restrict the content of expression, to control access to a certain message, or to limit the ability of a person who attempts to convey a message to express him or herself, that purpose will infringe section 2(b) (Irwin Toy Ltd., supra; Keegstra, supra).

This is precisely why there are questions about whether or not litigation would ultimately commence should this legislation be passed. If the Canadian government did, in fact, demote a Canadian’s YouTube video (which is inevitable here), you could argue that the freedom of expression is infringed because it limits “the ability of a person who attempts to convey a message”. Already, we are building an extremely compelling case here that this is a free speech issue.

Now, what “right to reach” implies is a right that actually never existed. The right to reach describes someone being able to promote a message and be completely free of the consequences of that message. The most clear example being former President, Donald Trump, saying that he should not be banned from social media for his violation of the rules laid out in the platforms terms of service. The demand being that Trump should have a right to be on that platform which is, easily arguably, private property. The truth in the matter is that a platform is well within their right to remove access to a user – especially if that user is violating the terms of service.

The difference between the Trump case and the Bill C-10 case is very clear. The government is intervening in a private companies algorithm, and demanding that certain kinds of content be promoted. The entity making this decision is the government itself, not the moderation staff of the platform. This is a critical difference which causes this myth to disintegrate.

If you are aware of any other myths being circulated about this legislation, feel free to let us know.

Myth 9: The CRTC is not going to regulate every post and every video, therefore, the concerns of Bill C-10 are completely overblown.

Fact: This myth depends exclusively on a very narrow and misleading interpretation of this legislation. The reality is that Bill C-10 does not have to moderate every post or comment on the Internet. As we highlighted in a previous article, Bill C-10’s Section 7 contains provisions that allow the CRTC to demand very intimate details about a user and their content. These drill down specifics would, under any circumstance, be impractical to ask of every user claiming to be Canadian. So, why put this in the legislation in the first place? The most logical conclusion we came up with is that this is actually part of a whitelisting system (or, the building blocks for them anyway).

The myth refers to a blacklisting system in that anything that is deemed “not Canadian” will be hit with suppression in rankings and results. This is obviously impractical because the amount of manpower would be impossible. However, a whitelisting would do the exact opposite in that it would be a list of content that is, in fact, deemed Canadian. Generally speaking, such a system would be significantly easier to maintain because it depends not on the CRTC actively seeking content, but rather, creators to bring content to the CRTC and beg for the privilege of being classified as “Canadian”. At that point, the CRTC would theoretically start demanding all of this information about the content (or user) in question. The CRTC would then say that this is all part of “administering” the Broadcasting Act. From there, they would theoretically make a determination of whether or not said content or channel is Canadian, then add it to the list or reject it accordingly.

Carrying this logic through to the obvious conclusion, it would mean that plenty of content produced by Canadian’s would easily be considered “not Canadian” for a variety of reasons. Those reason could include simply not partaking in the hoop jumping process, partaking in the hoop jumping process and failing to be recognized as “Canadian”, or partaking in the hoop jumping process and simply being left in a queue somewhere for who knows how long because the regulator is “backlogged” from all the requests to be blessed as “Canadian”.

To feed into how this favours larger players, the CRTC could simply give preferential treatment to established legacy corporations. This either voluntarily internally or by additional lobbying and subsequent legislation to mandate a fast lane for an approval for certain players in the establishment.

While some of this does require some speculation on our part, we have yet to see any kind of rebuttal to this perspective. As such, the argument that there are legitimate concerns with this legislation still stands.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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