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Broken Promises: Canada’s Censorship Law Targets User-Generated Content Despite Assurances

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The Canadian government has submitted a court filing, based on one of the country’s online censorship laws of recent years, the Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11). And that filing critics say proves the opposite of what the authorities have been promising the law’s goal would be.

Namely, as C-11 was being pushed and eventually adopted, the promise was that it was not aimed at regulating user content on social media. But now a court filing reveals a very different story, observers of Canada’s, at this point burgeoning, online censorship legislation say.

C-11 was controversial – when it was proposed and debated, and eventually passed – but it’s just one of many over in Canada.

One thing the government said the Online Streaming Act wouldn’t do was affect third-party user content through regulation. However, the new court filing indicates that it, in fact, does.

C-11 was an updated version of C-10, and critics said before it became law that it addressed some of the precedent’s problems – but not the key ones.

The essence of the Online Streaming Act was to expand the powers of the Broadcasting Act to vest the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission) regulatory powers over online content as well – meaning Big Tech, such as YouTube (Google), all the way down to podcast clients.

Despite persistent protestations from government representatives to the contrary, the new court filing – that happened to be a response to a Google challenge – appears to paint a different picture.

“The Act does allow for regulation of user-uploaded programs on social media services,” the filing reads, as noticed by Professor Michael Geist.

The issue has always boiled down to whether Big Tech can be efficiently “taxed and regulated” – while third-party content they host remains unaffected. And these latest legal movements are not encouraging for “ordinary” internet users in Canada at all.

It was Google, trying to protect its business, that challenged CRTC ruling about online (and streaming) broadcasting fees.

The Canadian authorities wanted advertising dollars that come with user content to be inclined into revenue fees – despite the fact the ads are run by Google, not content creators.

Here C-11 comes out of the publicity closet and into its true life. Reads the filing:

“Contrary to the applicant’s (Google’s) position, the Act does allow for the regulation of user-uploaded programs on social media services, so long as certain conditions are met.”

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