During the 2019 Open Government Partnership Summit, Justin Trudeau discussed the complexities and consequences of regulating online content with journalist Liz Plank.
“Fundamentally, we can’t look at platforms as automatic antagonists. We recognize the solution doesn’t lie in government’s heavy hand over our internet, over our public spaces”, Justin Trudeau said.
“What tools a reasonable, democratic, open government like Canada or others might find extremely useful and good to have on protecting citizens and encouraging competition and assuring that platforms take their responsibility seriously, in a different country might be a tool for oppression of citizens or control or really attacking free speech”, the prime minister added.
Two years ago, Trudeau recognized that the solution did not lie in the “government’s heavy hand over our internet”, yet today, the liberal government is pushing for the most radical internet censorship bill in Canadian history.
Bill C-10: An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts would give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) unprecedented regulatory powers over content shared online.
A newly voted amendment for the bill would allow the CRTC to issue orders regarding discoverability. For example, the regulatory agency could force online platforms to show a specific amount of Canadian content to their users. “I believe that clearly involves speech regulation”, University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist told the National Post.
The content you post on your social media is not exempted from government overreach either. Geist added that the content users generate online is considered a “program”, so the CRTC would have the authority to regulate it under Bill C-10.
“Despite nearly two weeks of public concern, the government still seems committed to regulating user generated content […] This remains an unworkable, dangerous bill driven by lobbyists demands rather than the interests of Canadians”, Geist added.
Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said: “If the CRTC can regulate what you see on your YouTube or Instagram feed, they can control what you see and what you learn about any given topic,” he said. “This bill is a direct attack on free speech.”