Ottawa’s move to regulate video posts on YouTube and social media called ‘assault’ on free speech



Ottawa’s move to regulate video posts on YouTube and social media called ‘assault’ on free speech

The Liberal-dominated House of Commons Heritage committee has cleared the way for the federal government to regulate video content on internet social media, such as YouTube, the same way it regulates national broadcasting, under a new amendment made to a bill updating the Broadcasting Act. Critics denounced the move to give the country’s broadcast regulator the ability to oversee user-generated content, and said it amounted to an attack on the free expression of Canadians, particularly in light of Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s recent plans to give Ottawa power to order take-downs of online content it deems objectionable. Last Friday afternoon, MPs on the committee made changes to the government’s bill updating the Broadcasting Act. Bill C-10 was introduced by Guilbeault in November, to clarify the CRTC’s ability to regulate TV and movie streaming services, such as Netflix.

The bill doesn’t include details of what that regulation will look like, but once the bill passes the government plans to instruct the CRTC to draft rules requiring online services to contribute to and promote Canadian content. When the Liberal government introduced C-10, user-generated content, such as an individual Canadian posting a YouTube video or a TikTok clip, was originally exempted. But that exclusion for user content was removed by committee MPs on Friday. A spokesperson for Guilbeault said the government’s intent behind removing the clause was primarily to allow for better regulation of music streaming on social media platforms, such as playlists of songs posted online.

Guilbeault’s press secretary, Camille Gagné-Raynauld, said C-10 «specifically targets professional series, films, and music,» and said there are safeguards in place, including that individual Canadians wouldn’t be considered broadcasters under the legislation. University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist said even if the bill means Canadian users won’t have to report to the CRTC themselves, their online videos on platforms like TikTok or YouTube «would be treated as a program subject to Canada’s broadcast regulator». The bill is only one piece of a multi-pronged effort by the Liberal government to impose new rules on Big Tech and other online companies. Other Liberal initiatives include a separate bill targeting online hate content set to be introduced shortly.

Guilbeault has said the government would consider blocking content as a last-resort option. The way C-10 is worded is also overly broad, she said, because it captures any user-generated «programs». Even if the CRTC doesn’t follow through with its new powers and chooses not to implement any regulations covering user-generated content, the fact that the law would now enable the regulator to do so is problematic, said Menzies. « Even without conditions, people would still be speaking with the CRTC’s permission,» Menzies said.

Cara Zwibel, director of the fundamental freedoms programs at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said that even if the CRTC isn’t currently interested in putting specific regulations on user-generated content in place, the legislation creates the potential for Ottawa to do so later.

Source: Anja Karadeglija| NP

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