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Amendment to Bill C-10 that would exempt social media content from regulation was rejected

Conservative MP Rachael Harder argued that the amendment would protect content posted by individuals from classification based on its Canadian character.

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Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs have rejected an attempt by the Conservatives to ensure that social media content is exempt from regulation in the controversial broadcasting Bill C-10.

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Conservative MPs proposed the amendment that would essentially have brought back a section of the bill that excluded social media content. This exemption was removed in April by the Heritage Committee, sparking outrage from critics who said placing user-generated content under the authority of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission amounts to an attack on freedom. expression.

After a month of controversy over the issue, which saw the committee halt its clause-by-clause review process to send the bill to the Minister of Justice for a Charter review and the Liberals propose new limits on the powers of the CRTC on social media, the Tories attempted to reintroduce the social media exemption.

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Conservative MP Rachael Harder said the amendment would ensure that when Canadians go online, “we will have the freedom to explore according to our wishes as members of the public rather than being dictated by an algorithm designed by the government”. Harder argued that this would prevent content posted by individuals from being “increased or decreased” or classified based on its Canadian character.

Following an amendment proposed by the Liberals, the current version of the bill says that the CRTC’s only power over social media content is to force platforms to implement discoverability of publications by Canadian creators, c That is, to force platforms like YouTube to recommend Canadian content. to users. Critics have said it’s still a violation of free speech, and Harder argued before the committee on Monday that it was a violation of Charter rights.

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But the Liberals and other opposition parties disagreed, voting against the amendment on Monday. Bloc Québécois MP Martin Champoux said he was satisfied that the amendments that were proposed after the removal of the social media exemption to limit the powers of the CRTC are sufficient to ensure freedom of expression.

  1. Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault is seen during a press conference in Ottawa, Friday April 17, 2020.

    Is C-10 a bill too far away?

  2. The intention behind Bill C-10 is to ensure that the CRTC can impose the same rules for Canadian content on digital platforms that it has put in place for traditional broadcasters.  CRTC Chairman Ian Scott is pictured.

    Heritage Committee votes in favor of opposition amendment to controversial Bill C-10

The committee will now return to clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, and after that it will return to Parliament for another vote, before proceeding to the Senate. The Tories plan to introduce further amendments to the bill to address free speech concerns, a party source said.

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Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet issued a statement on Tuesday urging the Liberal government to ensure the bill passes before Parliament’s summer recess, reiterating his previous offer to help the government limit the allotted time. debate on the bill.

The goal of C-10 was to set up the CRTC to regulate online platforms the same way it does for traditional broadcasters, but the legislation is light on the details – instead, it leaves details to the CRTC. Once the bill becomes law, the Liberal government plans to issue an Order in Council to the CRTC telling it how to implement C-10, including a nine-month deadline for a new regulatory framework.

Over the past week, the CRTC has come under fire over a decision on wholesale Internet tariffs that critics say will increase the prices of Internet services. Small ISPs are calling on the Liberal government to reverse this decision, and some are calling on CRTC Chairman Ian Scott to lose his job due to the surprise decision, in which the CRTC chose not to apply tariffs much lower than it had set two years ago.

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One of C-10’s biggest critics, Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said the CRTC’s finding last week that the wholesale rates it had set after a process of consultation of several years were wrong and that it would take too long to restart the whole process, is “remarkable for its incompetence.” He argued that Scott “chaired the dismantling of a pro-consumer, pro-innovative policy approach” at the CRTC.

“The CRTC’s lack of jurisdiction and rejection of competitive concerns combined with the government’s willingness to put the future of Internet regulation in its hands create perhaps the greatest threat stemming from Bill C-10.” , Geist wrote on his blog.

Following the release of the wholesale tariff decision, Scott told the National Post that the CRTC will follow government guidance regarding the implementation of C-10.

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Scott declined to comment on the controversy over how Bill C-10 affects freedom of expression, or whether the CRTC consultation will consider issues such as freedom of expression. “It is not for us to lay down the law. I am not going to enter the middle of a debate between parliamentarians on what the law should be, ”he declared.

There is a wide range of parties involved, from traditional broadcasters to newer platforms, and they all have opinions, he said, noting that the CRTC will treat the C-10 implementation process as it does. for any other regulatory body.

“We will identify the problem, then collect everyone’s comments, in order to come up with a framework that fulfills the legislative mandate and political direction,” he said. “I can’t predict what this will look like because I wouldn’t be open-minded.”

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The way the government has structured the bill and the draft policy direction means that it will be up to the CRTC to develop a new framework to ensure that all players contribute financially, Scott said.

“This will require, by definition, an analysis and consideration of what Canadian content is. Is there a new definition? And how do you ensure discoverability? Are among the issues the CRTC would consider.

Scott said discoverability is a fundamental part of broadcasting regulation and that the CRTC will address it. When asked if this included discoverability on social media, Scott replied that it would be determined by law, but added that the CRTC already has the power to regulate social media – it just chose not to. do it.

“Everyone seems to forget that the current definition of programming in the Broadcasting Act is extraordinarily broad,” Scott said.

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