University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist uncoverd documents slamming the Canadian government over its proposed online censorship called “Online harms”.
Hundreds of submissions to the Liberals government slamming the proposed online harms bill including Microsoft, Twitter and Canadian telecoms were being held captive by Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez who refused to release them. Bill C-11 seeks to subject streaming and social media platforms to government regulations.
Additional to Twitter from submission also came from the Business Software Alliance, Microsoft, Pinterest, TikTok, and Twitter. Further, in addition to TekSavvy and Tucows, the large Canadian telecom companies (Bell, Rogers, Telus, Cogeco, Quebecor and Shaw) provided a joint submission.
The submissions said the bill could be used for censorship, as a ‘tactic’ by political parties, and a joint response by the telecoms warned of government overreach.
Previously withheld feedback includes a document from Twitter that warned the proposed framework involving proactive monitoring of content “sacrifices freedom of expression to the creation of a government run system of surveillance of anyone who uses Twitter.”
“As lived during the recent Canadian federal election, a general approach to flagging will result in censorship,” Twitter said in their statement.
Bill C-11, according to the social media giant, opens the doors to politicians to exploit the powers granted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) under the bill to sway Canadian political debate in favour of the ruling party at the time.
If Bill C-11 passes, corporations that serve as a platform for online conversations and information exchange will be subject to the CRTC’s direct control and will be subject to the CRTC’s rules and quotas.
The CRTC would force these companies to promote what they call “Canadian content” with no explanation of what that exactly means and censor what the CRTC thinks is “harmful content”.
It would be expected streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Crave, HBO etc, would be required to promote a certain amount of “Canadian” content.
Twitter and YouTube, for example, would be required to police their platforms on behalf of the CRTC.
Platforms would be required to flag and remove content that encourages terrorism, incites violence, involves nonconsensual sharing of sexual content, portrays child exploitation, or contains terrorist propaganda. A majority of platforms already do this and is written within their terms of services without government intervention.
Microsoft also raised concerns about the effects of Bill C-11 on basic freedoms, saying that it “(c)ould have disproportionate impacts on freedom of expression and other fundamental human rights.”
“Service providers should not be required to proactively monitor user content, nor decide whether particular content is unlawful. Elected officials and independent courts — not private companies — should be the decision-makers on what content is illegal.”
Countries that are heavily in to human rights violations and not democracies could “(p)oint to Canada’s approach in defense of regulatory frameworks within their borders that are used to crack down on internet speech or other human rights.” Microsoft claimed
While Canada’s major telecom providers are already regulated by the Broadcasting Act by the CRTC, instead of countering the legislation and requesting less regulation for themselves. Bell, Rogers, Telus, Cogeco, Shaw and Quebecor have sent the government a joint statement voicing their support for the legislation. in other words, “if we are regulated they should be too” which encourages the Canadian government to stay in the past with regulations instead of becoming more modernized with the new technologies.