Bill That Would Allow CRTC to Regulate Social Media Faces Criticism

April 27, 2021 Updated: April 28, 2021

An amendment to a bill that would give Canada’s broadcasting regulatory agency new powers to regulate user-generated content on the internet and social media has been criticized as the government’s latest attempt to restrict freedom of expression.

Bill C-10, which amends the Broadcasting Act, is currently under clause-by-clause debate in the Liberal-dominant Heritage committee. But critics have considered the latest amendment passed Monday to be a move to censor the internet.

Conservative MP Alain Rayes said in statement that the bill gives too much power to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) by allowing it to oversee contents posted online.

Rayes said Conservatives want to support the creation of “a level playing field between large foreign streaming services and Canadian broadcasters.”

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, in response to Rayes’s statement, said he was “disconnected.”

“Very disappointed to see Alain Rayes and the CPC being so disconnected. Yet again, they let down the cultural sector and refuse to stand up to web giants,” Guilbeault, who introduced Bill C-10, wrote on Twitter.

Rayes said while the Conservatives still intend to vote against Bill C-10 as a whole, their members in the committee have put forth a compromising amendment aimed at protecting individuals and smaller streaming services by exempting those with less than $50 million annual advertising and/or subscription revenue in Canada from the CRTC regulation.

The Heritage committee voted down that amendment.

Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin said that it’s “not the intention” for the government to regulate all of the internet.

When Bill C-10 was introduced by Guilbeault in November 2020, user-generated content was originally exempted from regulation. But the exemption was removed on April 23.

“Last Friday the Liberals went further than ever before by voting against the section of their own Bill that would have at least partially exempted individual users who upload videos to social media sites like YouTube and Facebook. They even promised to introduce a new amendment to regulate apps,” Rayes said.

“This is another unacceptable attempt to target the freedoms of individual internet users by what University of Ottawa Law Professor Michael Geist has described as ‘the most anti-internet government in Canadian History.’”

Geist had made the remark in an article published earlier this month, in which he also criticized Guilbeault, who has been pushing legislation to combat hate speech, which many see as a underlying threat to free speech itself.

“Guilbeault’s vision is to require Internet providers to install blocking capabilities, create new regulators and content adjudicators to issue blocking orders, dispense with net neutrality, and build a Canadian Internet firewall,” Geist stated.

Guilbeault is also seeking to propose a new bill to regulate hate speech soon.