Criticism of Content Streaming Bill is ‘Misinformation’ Says Liberal MP

As part of its study of Bill C-11, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recently heard from a total of 48 witnesses who either appeared as individual stakeholders or represented organizations.

Out of the 48 witnesses, 16 individuals either raised concerns over the possibility of the legislation pushing user-generated content into regulation or challenged the government’s claims about its relationship with the same.

Bill C-11, also known as the Online Streaming Act, was tabled by Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez in February as an amendment to the Broadcasting Act. It aims to give the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulatory authority over online streaming companies, much like the watchdog has over traditional broadcasters.

The legislation has faced heavy criticism from tech corporations and even telecom companies, as well as the Canadian public en masse for fears that it would regulate user-generated content on social media platforms.

Canadian Heritage largely ignored the concerns raised by the 16 witnesses, which included content creators, consumer groups, independent experts, internet platforms, and industry associations, similarly to how the CRTC has repeatedly shrugged off inquiries. One Liberal MP even went as far as to deem the testimony “misinformation.”

“We have heard a lot of misinformation,” said Tim Louis, a Liberal MP who is on the Standing Committee. He added:

My colleague just mentioned previously that a lot of emails have come in with a lot of confusion and misinformation, and I believe that is deliberate. I was going to address two of the issues that we might be hearing some of the most misinformation about in the Online Streaming Act. First is the fact that user-generated content is excluded. People ask where that is in the legislation. The bill explicitly excludes all user-generated content in social media platforms and streaming services.

The Liberal MP parrotted subsection 2.1 of the proposed bill, which excludes individuals using social media services to upload content for other users to consume from any obligations to the CRTC.

Louis went on to say that Bill C-11 poses no threat of regulation to “users, even digital-first creators with millions of subscribers.” According to the MP, “any suggestions otherwise are simply untrue.”

However, CRTC chair Ian Scott himself has indicated the legislation could bring user-generated content into the regulator’s purview in hearings with the same committee.

Scott has told MPs that Bill C-11 would give the CRTC “some authority” over user-generated content. Section 4.2 of the bill “allows the CRTC to prescribe by regulation user uploaded content subject to very explicit criteria,” he said previously.

Professor Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in internet and eCommerce law at the University of Ottawa, said in a blog post that the government is entering a “danger zone” by branding the voices speaking up against Bill C-11 “misinformation.”

“When government MPs call the majority of expert testimony and analysis – corroborated by its own regulator – misinformation, it creates risks to freedom of expression that cannot be ignored,” he said.”

Marred by public disdain and stellarly vague language, the proposed bill will soon be on its way to a Senate review. Professor Geist said the Senate study on the bill is now more essential than ever.