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Bill C-10 changes to regulate social media content do not violate Charter rights: Minister of Justice

Critics of Bill C-10 disagreed with David Lametti’s updated charter review and predicted the issue would eventually play out in the courts

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The government’s controversial amendments to allow regulation of social media content do not affect free speech rights, the justice minister said.

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On Thursday, David Lametti, updating a review of Bill C-10 to ensure it complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, said in a statement that there were adequate limits on the power that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission would have on users. generated content.

But critics of Bill C-10 disagreed and predicted the issue would eventually play out in court.

Law professor Michael Geist said the charter review failed to recognize that under the new limits proposed by the government, the CRTC could still “prioritize or effectively de-prioritize content in the name of discoverability. “.

Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and Electronic Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa and one of the bill’s most vocal critics, said the charter statement “does rather trust the CRTC to rule in a manner consistent with the charter ”.

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“I don’t think this is enough and I think that if enacted, the bill will be subject to a Charter challenge, resulting in years of delay in its implementation as the courts consider the matter. “he said in an email.

Charter Statements are issued by the Minister of Justice and examine the potential effects that a government bill could have under the Charter. Opposition parties pushed the Liberal government to send back the bill for an updated charter statement after the government removed section 4.1, which previously exempted user-generated content from regulation. Critics warned that this amounted to an attack on free speech because it placed content posted by Canadians under the authority of the CRTC.

The government argued that the bill would not infringe on freedom of expression, but then proposed another amendment that would limit the CRTC’s powers over social media. This would allow the CRTC to issue discoverability orders – the ability to force social media platforms to promote content by Canadian creators.

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  1. Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault.

    ‘Everyone Seems Confused’: Bill C-10 Heads For Second Review to Determine Whether It Affects Charter Rights

  2. Under Bill C-10, Canadians' social media posts, such as videos they post on TikTok or YouTube, could fall under the regulatory authority of the CRTC.

    New Liberal amendment to Bill C-10 fails to address free speech concerns, expert says

Earlier this week, Liberal and Opposition MPs on the Heritage Committee reached an agreement to send the bill back to the Minister of Justice for a charter update.

The Justice Minister’s Charter review cites a number of safeguards, including the amendment limiting the powers of the CRTC, as reasons to stick to the original view that the bill complies with constitutionality.

The charter statement recognizes that the effect of removing section 4.1 “is that an online business that provides a social media service could be subject to regulation under the [Broadcasting Act] with respect to programs downloaded by its unaffiliated users. But it points to a separate section that still exempts the users themselves (but not their content) and notes that the CRTC is obligated to abide by the charter and is subject to court oversight.

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He also says that an “additional consideration” in his review was the government’s decision to limit the CRTC’s powers over social media platforms so that it could force them to provide information, contribute to the Canadian content system and implement “the discoverability of Canadian creators, so that Canadian creators and their programs are more easily discovered, prominently displayed and promoted online.”

The statement noted that the CRTC’s powers would not include the ability to ban content.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole told a press conference Thursday that if his party were elected to government, they would repeal Bill C-10 due to free speech concerns and introduce another bill to ensure that foreign digital players pay for the production of Canadian content.

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Emily Laidlaw, Canada Research Chair in Cyber ​​Security Law at the University of Calgary, said in an interview that she hopes the bill will end up in court. She said the way the bill was structured, the government would regulate content through private companies.

“This is not about directly regulating speech and therefore, in their opinion, there is no charter issue. But they get around the problem by treating these private companies as agents and regulating them through them, ”she said.

“If the government can say, well, we didn’t regulate the users directly, we just took an indirect route, and then that relieves them of any responsibility” is a position the courts should weigh, she declared.

Cara Zwibel, director of the fundamental freedoms program for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the statement “essentially defers the issue of constitutionality.”

To say that the CRTC has an obligation to act in accordance with the charter and that its decisions are subject to review by a tribunal essentially says, ‘We hope the CRTC will not violate Charter rights, and if it does. fact, a court can fix it. ‘”Zwiebel said in an email. “This is not particularly reassuring in light of the concerns that have been raised about the bill.”

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