One of the pieces of legislation I’ve heard the most about from local residents is Bill C-11 that will change what Canadians will be able to view online.
Bill C-11 is the government's updating of the Broadcasting Act to provide the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) the power and authority to regulate online content platforms.
The stated reasoning behind the bill is to bring the CRTC into the 21st Century, while supporting Canadian artists and promoting the spread of Canadian content over that of international competition. While that may seem like a noble goal, there are reasons Canadian artists, legal experts, and digital content producers are speaking out against this bill.
There are profound questions about using CRTC bureaucrats as online regulators. Their mandate primarily is regulating radio, television and advertising. If this bill passes, they would also be tasked with regulating user content-generating websites, like YouTube, where users upload hundreds of thousands of hours of video content every minute.
Even assuming they could do it, the federal government should not be policing what will be defined as "Canadian content" when using social or digital media platforms.
Canadians are right to question an organization having power to censor or impose what content people can see online. A free and open Internet is the gold standard of open democratic nations around the world, all the while also having laws that protect against insinuating violence and hatred. The bottom line is what you can search for and see online will be different than what you will see after the CRTC puts their regulations in place and that will change online algorithms.
Without Bill C-11, Canadian artists are succeeding making their full-time living growing content on digital platforms with the support of fellow Canadians and viewers from around the world receiving billions of views.
Legendary Canadian author Margaret Atwood spoke out against C-11 because, as she put it, "bureaucrats shouldn't tell authors what to write." Canadian social media stars bringing their concerns to the federal government about their content being hidden because of C-11's regulations found themselves ignored.
After spending months studying Bill C-11, Canada's Senate sent back to Parliament a heavily amended version of the (proposed) legislation. The process is the government can decide what amendments it likes and will bring those to the House of Commons for debate.
Canada has already seen a sneak preview of the impacts the government's heavy-handed approach to digital regulation will cause for everyday people. Recently, Google announced that because of another overreaching online law, Bill C-18, it started a test run to temporarily limit access to news content (including Canadian news content) for some Canadian users of Google.
I hope Google will reverse course on this test as no Canadian should be denied the news on a platform they use daily.
The biggest advocates for C-18 to regulate online news content are legacy broadcast organizations who are being outcompeted by small independent media.
Recently, the CBC’s president and CEO stated they are planning to shift services to digital, eventually ceasing traditional TV and radio broadcasting. There are likely many reasons for this, but one could be how Bill C-18 will force media organizations to negotiate with platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay them for posting online content and having it shared.
The biggest winners will be the largest of organizations, further affecting online algorithms pushing their content to the top and putting money in their bank accounts.
If you have any thoughts on these pieces of legislation, please reach out to me as I bring your voice to Ottawa.