One of the world’s largest technology trade groups says the federal government’s online streaming bill will place a “regulatory hand” on how consumers choose content and needs to be rewritten.
“Experience teaches that governments must be modest when imposing obligations on the technological future,” the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) said in a written submission to the Senate Transportation and Communications Committee on August 15, reported for the first time by Blacklock’s Reporter.
“Specifically, Canada should be careful and specific when trying to influence or define what information users can access through search.”
The CTA was referring to Bill C-11, An Act to Amend the Broadcasting Act, which, if passed in the Senate and receives Royal Assent, will update the Broadcasting Act and put broadcast platforms in stream such as Netflix and Amazon under the regulatory powers of Canadian Radio. – the Telecommunications and Television Council (CRTC).
The bill would also apply to platforms such as YouTube and Spotify, requiring them to promote Canadian artists.
In its brief, the CTA asserts that “despite the best of intentions,” Bill C-11 places “a regulatory hand on user discovery and choice of opinion and content.”
“Lack of precision”
The CTA has expressed concern about the “breadth and lack of specificity” of the current text of Bill C-11, which will result in “potential prescriptive and corrosive effects.”
The group also stressed that the nature of how individuals and businesses communicate on the internet should not be seen as identical to how radio and television broadcasters operate.
“The Internet provides users with the ability to publish as well as choose, receive, and store spoken, musical, and video expressions and content,” the association said.
“This sharing capability should not be assumed to turn users into broadcasters, nor subject users to even remotely comparable obligations and regulations.”
During his testimony before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on June 6, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez repeatedly insisted that Canadians who post content online should not fear falling under the jurisdiction of the CRTC.
“Absolutely not,” Rodriguez replied when asked by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather whether the content was regulated by the bill.
“There are people who try to make others believe that the CRTC is there, and the government through the CRTC, that we want to know what people are producing, and if the videos are good or not, and if we not happy with it, we’ll take it offline. No no.”
Bill C-11 passed third reading in the House of Commons on June 21.
The legislative process, however, was condemned by some Tory MPs, with MP John Nater saying the Liberal government was “cutting off debate at every stage” in order to rush the bill through Parliament.
Senators signaled they would not be pressured to fast-track the bill, saying they had foiled government schemes to push it through the upper house.
“The Trudeau government’s attempts to circumvent the democratic process and push through a flawed censorship bill #C11 without discussion or debate should outrage all Canadians,” said Senator Leo Housakos in a tweet on June 16.
“The Senate must and will conduct a full and transparent study of the bill.”
Prior to Bill C-11, the Liberals had proposed Bills C-10 and C-36 in an attempt to regulate Internet content, but neither has passed to date.
Bill C-10 would require social media platforms and Internet streaming companies to make financial contributions to support Canadian content, while Bill C-36 would allow individuals to file a complaint with from the Canadian Human Rights Commission if they experience “hate” online.
The CTA said Bill C-11 “does not provide demarcation, guidance, or limitation as to when user-generated content is subject to regulation.”
“If Parliament is unable to draw lines today that more accurately reflect the intention of the editors, there is no reason to assume that regulators will be able to do so in the future. “