Liberal internet regulation bill is ‘power grab on human communications,’ says former CRTC commissioner

The Liberals’ bill to regulate internet content would constitute government interference in the daily lives of Canadians, says a former CRTC commissioner, who called the scope of Bill C-11 “absurd” and ‘taking power over human communications’.

“We oppose C-11 because it embodies a fundamentally illiberal idea of ​​communications, because it constitutes a vast excess of governmental authority, and because it threatens the engine of innovation and economic growth, which is the internet,” Timothy Denton said in testimony before Senate Communications. Committee on September 14, as first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter.

“This is a general power grab on human communication on the Internet and therefore deserves our distinct disdain,” said Denton, who is now the Internet Society Canada Chapter President.

If the bill is approved by the Senate and receives Royal Assent, Bill C-11 would amend the Broadcasting Act to place major streaming and content creation platforms, such as Netflix and YouTube, under the authority of the CRTC, which will have the power to control what content is made available to Canadians on Internet platforms.

“It’s kind of a reverse internet takeover,” Denton said. “Canada’s tiny broadcasting system can take over the Internet world simply by redefining broadcasting. C-11 is so bold and so absurd.

C-11The main stated goal of is to update Canada’s Broadcasting Act so that it places Internet video and digital media services under the authority of the CRTC – much like the regulator does for radio. and cable – and to promote Canadian content to domestic viewers. . The bill would grant the CRTC the power to regulate almost all audiovisual content distributed through online platforms.

Denton argued that C-11 is in effect “to protect the economic interests of an antiquated niche of Canadians.”

“It’s not about updating broadcasting regulations,” he said. “It’s not even about streaming. It’s about controlling the content on the Internet, who transmits the content, and what reaches the people who access the Internet content.

“Huge Powers”

Matthew Hatfield, director of campaigns for OpenMedia, also testified before the Senate committee and said C-11 would give the CRTC “enormous powers” ​​representing a “stunning case of regulatory overreach unprecedented in the world.”

“Bill C-11 starts from a fundamental misconception that the Internet is similar to traditional broadcasting and should be regulated the same way,” Hatfield said. “It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t.”

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez told the House of Commons Canadian Heritage Committee on June 6 that the CRTC will not use the powers granted by C-11 to regulate the content Canadians post on the Internet.

“There are people who try to make others believe that the CRTC is there, and the government through the CRTC, that we want to know what people are producing, and if the videos are good or not, and if we not happy with it, we’re going to take it offline. No, no,” Rodriguez said.

Denton said the bill “raises fears of undue and harmful intervention.”

“C-11 greatly exceeds the government’s stated goals,” he said. “And then leaves entirely to the CRTC the ability to determine its own mandate and the extent of its intervention in the online economy, and in Canada’s ability to access the content of our choice.

Isaac Teo contributed to this report.


Peter Wilson is a journalist based in Ontario, Canada.