OpenMedia Releases Election Platform Despite Not Actually Running

OpenMedia isn’t a political party or is running candidates, but they did publish a platform anyway.

It’s something we were actually contemplating posting ourselves, but it seems that OpenMedia has published a political platform. They aren’t running as a party or running any candidates, but they are using it in the hopes that other parties will adopt the policies moving forward.

Even before the election was called, it was evident that there is no clear voice in the realm of digital rights from any political party. This is, indeed, uncharted territory. Going in to the 2019 election, the NDP and Green Party both offered the promise of being that clear voice. This has been a long running theme in Canadian politics. It was only this election that this changed. During the Bill C-10 debate, both parties effectively turned their backs on freedom of expression. It’s a move that stunned experts and long time observers alike. The damage this caused goes beyond two parties betraying a segment of the voter population and distancing themselves from their own principles. It extends into the realm of not having a party one could trust on digital rights.

Of course, the party that is masterminding the war on the free Internet is the Liberal party. It’s a three pronged approach to essentially ensure that online innovation and free speech has no place in Canada.

The first prong is the now dead Bill C-10 which ensures that user generated content is heavily regulated. By pushing independently produced content in Canada, Canadians will have a much harder time trying to become breakout successes. All this to try and favour established large corporations operating in Canada.

The second prong is the so-called “online harms” proposal. As we analyzed earlier, the proposal would establish a massive bureaucracy within government to oversee the Internet. The rules would demand 24 hour time windows to respond and take down content deemed “harmful”. This, of course, compels websites of any size to simply take down and ask questions later. Anyone can file the complaint in the first place which, obviously, invites abuse. What’s more is the definition of “harmful” is fluid and always changing. Those who fail to comply face a $10 million fine or 3% of annual turnover, whichever is higher. So, domestic sites will get absolutely decimated. As for sites operating outside of Canada, they would be subject to blocking. With such a law, survival as a website operator will become extremely difficult.

If you did somehow manage to survive this scorched earth policy on the Internet, the government has a third prong to finish you off. That is, of course, the link tax proposal. Essentially, if you link to any source as a way of offering references, then, in the eyes of the government, you are a dirty thieving pirate stealing content from news publishers. As a result, you would be required to pay fees for the privilege of sending this publishers traffic. Since linking is part of the very foundation of the Internet, discouraging linking would make it exponentially more difficult to get traffic flowing to your site. Less traffic means less revenue (whether its through subscriptions or ad revenue). In short, you’ll basically get choked off one way or another should you somehow manage to survive the carpet bombing of the other two prongs.

With this war on the Internet in the process of being carried out, no one party seems particularly trustworthy in trying to encourage Canada to turn the corner before driving off the innovation cliff. In the midst of this dire situation, Canadian digital rights organization, OpenMedia, decided to take matters in their own hands. This through their InternetSOS platform. OpenMedia says that Canada’s digital strategy is adrift in lobbyist infested waters. They then call for a vision that puts Internet users first. From OpenMedia:

That’s why OpenMedia is calling on every party to guarantee:

  • Universal Internet Access: Fast, affordable, and competitive home and mobile Internet access for everyone in Canada.
  • Empowered Internet Users: Internet content regulation that empowers us, the users, to make our own choices about what we experience online.
  • Expanded Privacy Protections: Reformed privacy laws built on our ongoing consent for use of our data, with meaningful punishment for violations.

The whole platform is worth reading through, but some highlights include:

  • Increase affordability for Internet and cell phones as well as increase access to rural and indigenous communities
  • Breaking up the carrier/ISP monopoly
  • Reject website blocking/censorship
  • Protect freedom of expression online
  • Support digital creators
  • Reject the link tax
  • Mandate transparency reports from large platforms
  • Privacy reform that closes loopholes that enable corporations to evade penalties
  • Require consent from users to use personal information
  • Curtail mass surveillance and biometric surveillance
  • The ability for government regulators to levy significant fines for violations of privacy

Generally speaking, it’s pretty hard to find flaws with this. It’s quite comprehensive and would allow Canada to turn the corner. Already, the world sees Canada as a very anti Internet country. Some even fear that the current trajectory Canada is taking will encourage other countries to start cracking down on the Internet in this extreme way. With the world looking at Canada as this backwards anti-innovation country that hates everything the Internet represents, it’s nice to see that some are pushing a positive vision like this. We can only hope that lawmakers will actually take notice and realize that there is a positive way forward. Admittedly, it’s hard to be optimistic these days, though.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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