As part of its study of Bill C-11, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recently heard from a total of 48 witnesses who appeared as individual intervenors or representatives of organizations.
Of the 48 witnesses, 16 people either raised concerns about the potential for legislation to push user-generated content into regulation or disputed the government’s claims about its relationship with it.
Bill C-11, also known as the Online Broadcasting Act, was introduced by Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez in February as an amendment to the Broadcasting Act. It aims to give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulatory authority over online broadcasting companies, much like the watchdog over traditional broadcasters.
The legislation has come under heavy criticism from tech companies and even telecom companies, as well as the Canadian public at large, fearing that it will regulate user-generated content on social media platforms.
Canadian Heritage largely ignored the concerns raised by the 16 witnesses, which included content creators, consumer groups, independent experts, Internet platforms and industry associations, in the same way that the CRTC ignored surveys repeatedly. A Liberal MP even went so far as to call the testimony “disinformation”.
“We’ve heard a lot of misinformation,” said Tim Louis, a Liberal MP who sits on the Standing Committee. He added:
My colleague just mentioned earlier that many emails have come in with a lot of confusion and misinformation, and I think that’s deliberate. I was going to touch on two of the issues where we might hear some of the most misinformation in online streaming law. The first is the fact that user-generated content is excluded. People ask where that is in the law. The bill explicitly excludes any user-generated content on social media platforms and streaming services.
The Liberal MP replicated section 2.1 of the proposed bill, which excludes people using social media services to upload content that other users may consume from any obligation to the CRTC.
Louis went on to say that Bill C-11 poses no regulatory threat to “users, even digital-first creators with millions of subscribers.” According to the MP, “any other suggestion is simply wrong”.
However, CRTC Chairman Ian Scott himself has indicated that the legislation could bring user-generated content under the jurisdiction of the regulator in hearings before the same committee.
Scott told MPs that Bill C-11 would give the CRTC “some authority” over user-generated content. Section 4.2 of the bill “allows the CRTC to prescribe by regulation user-uploaded content subject to very explicit criteria,” he previously said.
Professor Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and Electronic Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, said in a blog post that the government is entering a “danger zone” by labeling the voices raised against Bill C-11 as “disinformation”.
“When government MPs call the majority of expert testimony and analysis – corroborated by its own regulator – disinformation, it creates risks to free speech that cannot be ignored,” he said. declared.
Marked by public contempt and stellarly vague language, the proposed bill will soon be on its way to Senate consideration. Professor Geist said the Senate’s study of the bill is now more essential than ever.