LILLEY: CRTC record shows why it shouldn’t regulate the internet

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Anyone who thinks that the CRTC, Canada’s broadcasting regulator, should be responsible for regulating the Internet must think again.

The government body that decides which Canadians can and who cannot get broadcasting licenses has a habit of turning a blind eye to dictatorial regime programs distributed across Canada.

Under Bill C-10, proposed by the Liberal Trudeau government, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will have broad powers to regulate the Internet.

It could see your music playlists or your social media algorithms being manipulated by the government agency to make sure that you are not only seeing enough Canadian content, but also the right kind of Canadian content.

This sparked an uproar over the possibility of the government assuming what amounts to a censorship role when it comes to internet content. If some content needs more favorable treatment to meet government mandates, then other content needs less favorable treatment to make room for government-approved content.

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It’s not some far-fetched aluminum hat that carries the conspiracy theory, it’s right in the legislation. Ensuring that sufficient Canadian content and good government-approved Canadian content is made available to social media users is built into C-10.

Some, including myself, have questioned the wisdom of allowing the CRTC to decide what we can watch, listen to or see online. It sounds like what we expect from dictatorial regimes like China or Russia, not from a free democracy like Canada.

Yet the CRTC, which has ruled broadcasters and broadcasters for decades, has shown it has a soft spot for content from questionable regimes.

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Last weekend, Radio-Canada, CBC’s French-language service, detailed the problematic shows on Chinese channels CGTN and CCTV-4. Both networks are under the control of the Chinese Communist Party and have released forced confessions from dozens of people who have signed a complaint with the CRTC.

The regulator did not respond despite having been aware of the forced confession complaints for nearly 18 months.

Meanwhile, the CRTC also continues to allow RT, a propaganda arm of the Putin regime, to be broadcast across Canada.

If anyone doesn’t think that saying that these channels from China and Russia shouldn’t air is weird for someone who advocates free speech, let’s look at the facts. Any Canadian channel offering the same content as these outlets would be shut down by the CRTC, but foreign channels from oppressive regimes are allowed to operate.

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This is the organization that the Trudeau government wants to put in charge of regulating Canada’s online space.

An organization that tells Canadian broadcasters to adhere to certain standards while allowing dictatorial regimes to broadcast forced confessions and propaganda should not be responsible for online content.

We are being asked to believe that when it comes to protecting Charter rights online, the CRTC will do the right thing.

Personally, as someone who has spent much of their career under the auspices of the CRTC, I wouldn’t want them to decide anything. The CRTC is an entirely political organization and allowing the party in power – any party in power – to decide what is acceptable online is not what every Canadian should want.

Unless the regimes you admire reside in Beijing and Moscow.

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