Political Revenge: Chris Bittle Attempts to Bully Those Opposed to Bill C-18 With Massive Demands

The bullying and intimidation tactics of the Canadian government continues with Chris Bittle making massive demands of Bill C-18 opponents.

Bully, harass, gaslight, silence, lie, demonize, and intimidate – this is part of a long standing pattern of the Canadian government when dealing with critics of Bill C-11 and Bill C-18. The overwhelming message is obvious: if you dare to criticize the governments approach on those bills, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

That pattern of bullying and intimidation is continuing with the Bill C-18 debate. Different debate, same deplorable behaviour from the government. As the Canadian government pushes ahead with Bill C-18, Canada’s link tax that threatens to effectively end press freedom in this country, Google conducted a test to see if they can technically move ahead with simply not carrying the media’s links should they choose to go that rout. Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, along with the corrupted media, lashed out and accused Google of blocking news access, a charge that never held up to even the most basic levels of scrutiny.

So, in response, the Canadian government summoned Google before committee to testify about the test on short notice. As we got closer to the date of the summons, the media called for the arrest of Google’s executives even though they ended up sending people who would be better positioned to answer questions. The hearing eventually happened after the government proved to be the ones unprepared for the hearing thanks to technical issues – a theme that continued on the day of the hearing.

As I predicted, MPs had no interest in hearing answers, but rather, turned the hearing into a sh*tshow by spending the two hours yelling at Google and insisting that Google is doing anything from censorship, to coercion, electoral interference, being an agent of China, being a threat to public safety, causing ocean levels to rise, and bringing in an era of cats and dogs living together (yes, only the last two were slight exaggerations). The hearing ended up being a massive embarrassment for Canadian’s as it proved that the government has no idea how the internet works and is willing to burn it all down because of their ignorance. It left Canadians giving a collective “WTF?” at the whole scene.

Of course, part of the hearing involved MPs flipping out over documents it had demanded. As Google explained, all of this is being done at the last minute and with little notice. Google also explained that the document demand was wide ranging, but they are working with the Canadian government to produce the rest of the documents.

Another development is the fact that Meta (Facebook) has said that they won’t be allowing news links on their platform should Bill C-18 be made law without amendment. Honestly, who could blame them? If you were a company operating in another country, and the countries government is pushing a law saying that you will be required to carry unlimited liability over a service you derive little value from, what do you do? The answer is obvious, “screw it. Turn off the service.”

In response to these developments, it seems like the government is now demanding even more documents. How much are they demanding? Well, everything. Getting that from a company as large as Google or Meta is no easy task.

Here’s the full image:

The demand for that much is… insane. Demanding this overnight borders on unreasonable if it isn’t already unreasonable. What’s more, the demand sets a deadline that the Canadian government would never abide by with ATIP (Access to Information) requests. Often, such requests takes years and ends up being redacted. I know from personal experience that I had an ATIP request denied once citing “national security” concerns (It was attempting to get information on the then secret ACTA trade agreement). Yet, here’s the government making these demands of a private international company.

The hypocritical demands were not lost on Michael Geist who points out that there are potential privacy implications involved here:

It is hard to overstate the broad scope of the disclosure demands. Canadian digital creators concerned with Bill C-11 who wrote to Youtube would find their correspondence disclosed to the committee. So would researchers who sought access to data from Google or Facebook on issues such as police access to social media records or anti-hate groups who contacted Facebook regarding the government’s online harms proposal for automated reports to law enforcement. Privacy advocates focused on how Google administers the right to be forgotten in Canada would ironically find their correspondence disclosed as would independent media sites that wrote to Facebook about the implications of Bill C-18.

These are all private communications, yet the motion demands their disclosure to a committee that apparently views opposition to government legislation as a “subversion tactic.” Of course, the disclosure demands also extend to virtually anything the companies have ever said or done internally about the legislation. The same government that exempts from disclosure under the Access to Information Act virtually anything related to government bills and can take years to respond to requests has no business demanding every internal document from private entities within about 10 days without any allegation of illegal activity.

Bill C-18 mandates payments for links with costs that the government anticipates could rise to 35% of the news expenditures of every news outlet in Canada. That has led to the predictable result that Google and Facebook are considering blocking news links or news sharing. That isn’t intimidation or subversion. It is the unsurprising consequence of the government’s policy choice to tether its legislation to linking, rather than focus on reproduction of works or the creation of journalism fund. But regardless of your views of the bill or your dislike for tech giants, this motion should be viewed (to use the words of one MP from the Google hearing) as disloyal to Canadian democratic principles. Call on the companies to appear and bring as many tech critics as you like. But stay away from snooping on Canadians’ private communications.

Indeed, this is nothing short of political revenge here. It has little to do with getting answers, but everything to do with punishing entities who would dare be critical of the governments approach. Already, we’ve seen multiple disinformation campaigns by the large media outlets actively pushing this bill forward. This despite the fact that they are expected to report the news objectively. Why aren’t similar demands being made on them? Because they are the ones behind these efforts in the first place. For the government, this is wholly acceptable collusion because it aids their agenda.

What’s more, what if a private Canadian citizen gets swept up in these documents? Isn’t this a privacy nightmare? After all, you have a government who has a long history of political retaliation and targeting anyone who is opposed to their agenda. Now, people’s private correspondence is potentially being dragged into this. Honestly, thank goodness I never had any correspondence with either company on these matters or I might have something to personally worry about here. Still, there might be others worried that their names would pop up as they could potentially be subject to political retaliation in the process.

This all goes back to a pattern of abuse of power with this government. It’s about using levers to an unjustified extent for the sole purpose of punishing companies for what the government sees as political opponents to an issue. Depressingly, this isn’t even close to the first time we’ve heard the government having problems with being caught with obvious abuse of power instances. It discourages honest political discourse and puts anyone who has a problem with the government on notice: question the government and the government will make your life a living h*ll.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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