Bill C-11, the Trudeau government's latest effort to curb free speech on the internet, appears to be on new Twitter owner Elon Musk's radar for the first time, after right-wing activist group Canada Proud asked the Space X founder if he would help in the fight against Liberal censorship.
"First I've heard" was Musk's response to a question from Canada Proud on whether he'd join the fight. For many Canadians, just the fact that Musk is acknowledging the legislation in the slight manner that he did is reason to celebrate.
Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, is a bill that seeks to give the Trudeau Liberals the ability to censor controversial and unpopular speech on the internet.
The Online Streaming Act (OSA, Bill C-11) is a step that the Trudeau government is taking, based on no regular Canadians' recommendation.
As described by John Carpay of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms for The Post Millennial, the stated purpose of the OSA is not particularly controversial: to bring influential streaming services like Netflix, Disney, and Spotify under the authority of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
"But under the OSA, the CRTC's new authority will not be limited to these large entertainment giants. Rather, the OSA will empower the CRTC to assume jurisdiction via regulation over any 'program' (audio or audiovisual online content) that is 'monetizable' because it 'directly or indirectly generates revenues.'"
In short, Trudeau's new bill would give the CRTC new, sweeping powers that would enable them to regulate any online streaming service they wanted, including that of private citizens.
"In the long run, the CRTC could end up regulating much of the content posted on major social media, even where the content is generated or uploaded by religious, political, and charitable non-profits," Carpay explains.
Bill sponsor Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has said repeatedly that C-11 does not target Canadians who create and post their own podcasts and videos.
"The minister's claim is partially true," Carpay explains. "The OSA specifies that users are not targeted as broadcasters, and the CRTC will not regulate videos and podcasts that do not generate revenue for the person who uploads them or owns the rights over them. However, other sections of the OSA create loopholes that would leave space for CRTC to regulate podcasts and videos. What the OSA gives with the right hand, it takes back with the left.
Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottawa and critic of Bill C-11, has argued that, should the OSA become law, the CRTC could regulate everything from podcasts to TikTok videos as a "program."
Carpay writes, "As individuals, Canadians using the internet will not be regulated like broadcasters. However, the podcasts and videos that Canadians produce and upload could fall under CRTC authority as a 'program.' Geist states that "the potential scope for regulation is virtually limitless, since any audio-visual service anywhere with Canadian subscribers or users is caught by the rules."
"The CRTC will become more powerful than ever before. It can require platforms to prioritize certain podcasts or videos, effectively de-prioritizing other podcasts and videos. The entire audio-visual world will be fair game, as though the entire globe should be subject to Canadian broadcast jurisdiction. The CRTC itself will have the power to exempt, or not, some services from its regulation.
"According to Senator Paula Simons, the OSA will dramatically increase the potential for regulatory gatekeeping by giving the CRTC new power to force platforms to privilege specific kinds of 'Canadian' content. Large legacy media corporations, with their established funding and production capacity already in place, will likely qualify as sufficiently "Canadian" and the OSA will have little impact on them."
The bill will now move to the Senate. The unelected Canadian Senate can propose amendments to the bill.
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