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YouTube warns Bill C-11 lets government censor everyday user content online

Officials from YouTube have warned that if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s internet regulation bill passes, the government will have unparalleled control over ordinary content put online.

Bill C-11’s phrasing is so broad, according to YouTube Canada’s head of government affairs Janette Patell, that it brings home videos under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Several experts have condemned the modification to the Broadcasting Act as an assault to freedom of expression, despite claims by the Trudeau government that it will exclude everyday videos.

“(Bill C-11) provides the CRTC the discretion to regulate user-generated content like a fan doing a cover song or someone making cooking videos in their kitchen or doing how-to-fix-a-bike videos,” said Patell. 

In February, Liberal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez warned the media that such content would be outside the CRTC’s mandate.

“We have been extremely clear: Only platforms have obligations. Users and creators will not be regulated. Platforms are in, user-generated content is out,” said department spokeswoman Laura Scaffidi. 

Last month, CRTC chair Ian Scott, who was chosen by Trudeau, stated that Canadians should have blind faith in the organization’s ability to regulate the internet.

“Users of online and social media services expect freedom of expression, and they will continue to enjoy this under the new Broadcasting Act,” Scott claimed.

“Put another way, the CRTC issues about 250 broadcasting decisions annually. Not a single one has ever been successfully challenged on the basis that it somehow infringed Canadians’ freedom of expression.”

The Trudeau government has tabled multiple bills to enhance government control over the internet, including C-18, the so-called online hate law.

Twitter is another social media company that has challenged the Liberals’ regulation plans. An access to information request produced a submission from Twitter to the heritage ministry that linked the Liberals’ online hate legislation to censorship regimes in authoritarian countries like North Korea.

“The proposal by the government of Canada to allow the Digital Safety Commissioner to block websites is drastic,” wrote Twitter’s Manager for Public Policy Michele Austin in September.

“People around the world have been blocked from accessing Twitter and other services in a similar manner as the one proposed by Canada by multiple authoritarian governments (China, North Korea, and Iran, for example) under the false guise of ‘online safety’ impeding peoples’ rights to access information online.”

Timothy Denton, a former CRTC commissioner, compared proposed internet regulations to authoritarian regimes.

“It is creepily totalitarian, something you might expect out of China or Russia,” said Denton in November.

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