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Minister backtracks comments on Bill C-10, says social media users will never be regulated

Minister backtracks comments on Bill C-10, says social media users  will never  be regulated
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OTTAWA -- After suggesting that under Bill C-10, the Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications Commission (CRTC) could impose discoverability regulations on individuals who have a large-enough following online, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault now says thats not the case.

In a new statement sent to CTV News late Sunday night, the minister says he used unclear language when he referred to people and online channels being subject to federal regulations as part of the governments updates to the Broadcasting Act.

What we want to do, this law should apply to people who are broadcasters, or act like broadcasters. So if you have a YouTube channel with millions of viewers, and you re deriving revenues from that, then at some point the CRTC will be asked to put a threshold. But we re talking about broadcasters here, we re not talking about everyday citizens posting stuff on their YouTube channel, Guilbeault said in the interview.

In the new statement, the minister says he should have been more precise in the words he used, as: an individual -- a person -- who uses social media will never be considered as broadcasters and will not be subject to the obligations or regulations within the Broadcasting Act.

That said, this still would have implications for what everyday users see online.

CTVNews.ca has sought further clarity from the ministers office about whether in any circumstance an account or channel on a social media platform would be subjected to regulations in the way the minister described more than once in the CTVs Question Period interview.

It was the ministers suggestion that highly followed accounts, who were creating and making money off of content that could be considered broadcasting by the CRTC, would face regulations, that prompted swift reactions on Sunday from industry and internet experts, as well as some members of Parliament.

When does internet following and therefore content uploaded by an individual make someone a broadcaster to be regulated by CRTC? asked former Liberal justice minister and now Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Questions were also raised by his description of the CRTCs new powers and role in establishing thresholds for who Bill C-10 would apply to.

In his latest statement, the minister stated that proposed changes to the way Bill C-10 is drafted would severely limit the regulators powers to regulate social media platforms. The legislation would allow the CRTC to: ask how much revenue a platform makes; ask for the platform to invest a certain percentage of its revenues into Canadian content; and to ask the platform to provide discoverability for Canadian content.

The government continues to point to a section of the legislation, which states that a person who uses a social media service to upload programs for transmission over the internet and who is not the provider of the service, wont fall under the Acts scope. The Liberals say this makes it clear that individuals would not come under CRTC scrutiny under the changes in Bill C-10.

However, the government has removed a separate section that exempted individuals online content or programs uploaded by users. This was what first prompted free speech concerns, that the minister has previously sought to clarify. Despite calls to reinstate the section, the Liberals have opted to advance a new amendment attempting to assuage fears that the audio or video content people upload would come under scrutiny by the CRTC, even though its not been an area theyve ventured near to-date.

Guilbeault has been under scrutiny over the bill for weeks, and has faced calls to go back to the drawing board on how the government wants to make web giants pay their fair share, which was the governments stated intention with the legislation when it was first introduced in 2020.

The governments story about the bill changes daily. Time to scrap it and start over, said Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor and the Canada Research Chair in internet and e-commerce law that aired on Sunday.

The clause-by-clause study of the legislation, where MPs can suggest amendments to the way its worded, is set to continue Monday morning.
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