Greg Tobin is the Digital Strategy Director for the Canada Strong & Proud Network.
Imagine a Canada where every single thing you say online was watched, checked, and possibly censored by the government. Your text messages, Facebook posts, and comments on YouTube videos — all of it monitored to ensure your speech is “safe.”
It sounds outrageous, right? Totalitarian and gross. Now, what if I told you that the government was just caught planning for it?
Federal Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodgriguez, fresh off spearheading two other censorship bills, C-11 and C-18, has been caught planning his greatest feat yet – to censor all electronic communications within Canada. Going all-in against freedom of speech has become a pattern for this government it seems.
Minister Rodgriguez recently appointed a 12-person “expert advisory group” and commissioned them to come up with a plan on how to tackle “misinformation” among other things.
The group came back with some outrageous suggestions that involve monitoring and regulating all communications in Canada, including text messages, for the purpose of combating “misleading political communications,” which we all know is a liberal dog-whistle for information, the government doesn’t like.
The proposal is sweeping and leaves nothing out. The advisory group suggested including all your private communications – your texts, phone calls, Facebook posts, AirBnB chats, reviews left on Amazon products, images posted to Instagram, TikTok videos – any and all of it could land you a fine, or be shut down online if the government doesn’t like it.
Imagine you’re making a phone call and you start talking about the latest government scandal – and then the call just drops.
Or if you’re trying to send a text to your friends about a meetup for a protest, and the texts just won’t send.
Or you’re trying to get a t-shirt made up as part of a campaign effort, and the manufacturer says he received a notice from the government that the designs you sent him constitute “harmful speech”.
It’s insane that the government and their advisory committee would suggest this kind of invasion into our lives. A “Justin-vasion” of your privacy if you will. It makes one think of the situation in Hong Kong, where the government there made open dissent against the Chinese Communist Party illegal.
Do you trust anyone in this government, much less a group of unelected bureaucrats to be able to fairly, justly, or wisely decide what counts as “misinformation”?
It also leaves us asking a hundred and one questions about how they will go about doing this, and what kind of measures they will take to ensure that all communications are accounted for.
VPNs, for example, allow Canadians to ensure their online activity is kept private from hackers and spying entities online. It also allows you to trick your Netflix into thinking you’re American so you can get access to an entirely different library of content. Will the government ban them?
What about encrypted social media apps, like Signal or WhatsApp? Both are popular among journalists to ensure their work is kept private from prying eyes. Will the government ban the use of them? Forcing you to do all your communicating over one kind of messaging app that you know is being watched?
Will they force Canadians to use only one kind of web browser they can easily manipulate?
Will they do something similar to what exists in China and create a “firewall” around the entire Canadian internet? Blocking access to certain parts of websites, or whole websites together like Wikipedia, Twitter or Facebook, if the content on those pages goes against government dogma?
If they are as serious as they seem in this report – everything is on the table.
And to top it all off – the government’s plan includes the appointment of a Chief Internet Censor. Who would have the power to levy fines and issue takedowns of the so-called “harmful content”
Selfie while you’re at the gym? – Harmful body standards: censored.
Argument with family over Facebook? – Cyberbullying: censored.
Teasing a friend about his solar panels on Twitter? – Climate Disinformation: censored.
Meme about the Prime Minister in your WhatsApp group chat? – Hate speech: censored.
The goal of course is to create a Canada where you have lost your ability to speak badly about this government, under the false guise of “safety”. The “safety” that the government refers to is for them to be safe and free from the criticisms of voters like you.
The government’s plan is totalitarian. It is deeply and truly unCanadian.
The neutrality of our online world, free from the corruption of one political party or another, allows our democracy to thrive. This plan throws that neutrality out the window and could be used by any government going forward, of any political stripe, to clamp down on your right to free speech.
Let’s all join together, and tell Trudeau to keep his corrupt hands off our internet.