OTTAWA (LifeSiteNews) – A top Canadian internet analyst has sounded the alarm over a Liberal Party proposal being discussed this week that calls for online news “publications” whose sources can’t be “verified” to in effect be censored.
The Liberal proposal to curb online news sites will be discussed at its Party National Convention, which began Thursday and will conclude Saturday in Ottawa. It was one of 20 proposals brought forth by various provincial arms of the party, which made it on the list to be discussed.
The online news proposal is listed in the proposed 2023 Policy Resolutions titled “Combatting Disinformation in Canada” and was sponsored by the Liberal Party of Canada (British Columbia).
A section reads, “BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Liberal Party of Canada: Request the Government explore options to hold on-line information services accountable for the veracity of material published on their platforms and to limit publication only to material whose sources can be traced.”
Another resolution reads that the government “provide additional public funds to support advertisement-free news and information reporting by Canadian media through an arm’s-length non-partisan mechanism.”
Michael Geist, who serves as the research chair of internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa and is critical of federal online censorship legislation that recently passed, was quick to blast the Liberal proposal as the party trying to curb Canadians’ “freedom of expression.”
“Liberal Party policy proposal calls for online information services ‘to limit publication only to material whose sources can be traced.’ An obvious violation of freedom of expression was voted as one of the top 20 policy resolutions for party discussion,” Geist tweeted.
In a blog post today, Geist wrote that while it is not clear what the Liberals mean by “online information services,” the overall “outcome is dangerous no matter the scope.”
“Is this all news outlets with a focus on their online presence? Is it online-only news sources? Is this far broader and designed to encompass Internet platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok (note the reference to “platforms”) with requirements that they be held accountable for posts without traceable sources,” Geist said.
“The implications of the government engaging in this form of heavy-handed speech regulation are dangerous in all of these circumstances. Sourcing is an important issue in the media and the government cannot claim to support press freedom and simultaneously back policies that intervene in sourcing.”
Since coming to power in 2015, the federal Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pressed forward with internet legislation that critics have said will indeed curb Canadians’ freedom of expression.
Last Thursday, the Trudeau Liberals passed a first-ever law that will regulate Canada’s internet, Bill C-11. However, the government said there are more laws to come.
Late last year, the Trudeau government decided to fast-track another content-regulation Bill, C-18, titled the “Online News Act,” by rushing it through the House of Commons. This Bill is also now before the Senate.
The Online News Act, should it become law, stated that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) would be used by the group to create newsroom ethics guidelines. These guidelines could potentially affect independent news outlets that don’t get a stamp of approval from the government from being targeted.
The fast-tracking of Bill C-18 comes despite it being blasted by critics as an attack on independent media, with some warning it could lead to the “death” of the free press in Canada.
Bill C-18 was introduced in the House of Commons by Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez in April 2022, and seeks to involve Big Tech social media platforms such as Facebook and Google in the regulation of internet content in Canada.
According to the bill’s text, news outlets that are given the label of a “qualified Canadian journalism organization” could receive favorable rankings on Big Tech platforms and would even be entitled to “fair compensation” whenever their news content is shared on such sites.
Even social media giant Facebook has blasted the bill, warning the government it will lead to news content being inaccessible for Canadians.
As for Bill C-11, it will in effect force social media companies and others to promote more Canadian content but could also regulate user content as well.
In practice, Bill C-11 now mandates that the CRTC oversee regulating online content on platforms such as YouTube and Netflix to ensure that such platforms are promoting Canadian content in accordance with a variety of CRTC guidelines.
Due to the broad nature of the mandate, critics have said putting the law into practice could take years of back-and-forth debate.
Some of the bill’s most intense critics, such as Geist, have warned Bill C-11 could spell disaster for internet freedom for Canadians, especially content creators.
As for what media could be deemed legitimate or not, the Trudeau government in 2019 promised that it would give legacy media, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), an extra $595 million in federal assistance over the next four years.
The CBC, however, is mostly funded by the government. Per its 2020-2021 annual report, the CBC receives about $1.24 billion in public funding every year, which is about 70% of its funding.
However, Canada’s own Department of Canadian Heritage recently admitted the “bailout” of media has not worked in helping to prop up legacy media outlets.
Retired Canadian colonel David Redman recently testified that legacy media outlets are “ministries of propaganda” while at the same time the federal government’s research shows that Canadians do not want members of the cabinet deciding what news is “fake” or not.