The head of Canada’s unelected broadcasting and telecommunications regulator has said that Canadians can trust the group to regulate the internet once the Liberal government’s Bill C-11 gives it that power.
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Chairman Ian Scott was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the position in 2021.
“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 in a recent speech.
“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.”
C-11 will revise Canada’s Broadcasting Act and expand the CRTC’s powers to include the digital realm. It is an updated version of Bill C-10, which failed to pass into law prior to the 2021 election.
Critics have blasted the bill as an affront to freedom of expression, allowing the government to regulate what Canadian users can post online or how said content will be promoted.
According to University of Ottawa Internet and E-Commerce Law Research Chair Michael Geist, the Liberals have misled Canadians on the scope of the bill. Concerns with the law include “virtually limitless jurisdictional, overbroad scope, and harmful discoverability provisions,” said Geist.
“Bill C-11 treats all audio-visual content as programs subject to potential regulation. With exceptions that could easily capture TikTok or YouTube videos, the bill is about far more than just large companies,” he added.
Meanwhile, Scott has stated that the bill needed to be open-ended so that the CRTC could have room to maneuver.
“As we have seen, it can take several decades before Parliament has an opportunity to review legislation, and in the meantime circumstances on the ground can shift significantly,” said Scott.
In addition to Bill C-11, the Trudeau government recently introduced Bill C-18.
The Liberals have claimed that the bill is a way to make big tech giants like Google and Meta pay for Canadian news and cultural content they host on their platforms.
However, critics including Geist have said that it’s a “government-backed shakedown that runs the risk of undermining press independence” and that the law will actually make it harder for Canadian content creators to succeed.
The legislation would exempt news corporations from the Competition Act and anti-trust laws, requiring social media platforms and search engines like Facebook and Google to pay news media from ad revenues generated by news content.
Even former CRTC officials have spoken up against the Trudeau government’s plan to regulate the internet, with two signing onto a petition which labeling Bill C-10 an “authoritarian” move.