Liberals to amend Bill C-10 to clarify stance on user-generated content

Steven Guilbeault
The Conservative party and other critics of the bill contend that the removal of section 4.1 paves the way for the CRTC to regulate social media posts, while the Liberals say this is political spin.

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has said the Liberal government will amend Bill C-10 to clarify that it will not regulate user-generated content that Canadians upload to social media platforms such YouTube, Instagram or TikTok.

Guilbeault’s comments come after a week in which the Conservative Party and other critics of the bill suggested the removal of section 4.1 – which exempted content posted by Canadians to social media from CRTC oversight – would pave the way for regulation of what Canadians post to social media.

The Liberals had countered that the removal of section 4.1 would not be an issue, as section 2.1 already states that “individuals who upload content on social media platforms such as Facebook or TikTok, aren’t considered broadcasters.”

“This means you and I can’t be regulated by the CRTC. We’ve kept that clause,” said Guilbeault in a statement posted to Twitter on Monday (May 3), adding that user-generated content uploaded to social media “won’t be considered as programming under the Act” and won’t be regulated by the CRTC. “That’s why we will be bringing forward another amendment that will make this crystal clear.”

For its part, the Liberals say the intention behind the exclusion of section 4.1 is to ensure the CRTC has the ability to request (among other regulations) contributions from a platform like YouTube when professional content is uploaded by its users.

Exactly when the amendment will be brought forward by the Liberals has not been confirmed.

Guilbeault and the Liberal party have repeatedly said that Bill C-10 is intended to bring foreign-based streaming platforms, including Netflix and Spotify, into the regulatory tent. According to projections released by the government when the bill was first tabled in November, online platforms’ contributions to Canadian music and stories could hit $830 million by 2023 if a new contribution framework is implemented.

In addition, the committee is debating whether to pause the bill in order to more closely examine how it could impact freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Conservatives on Friday filed a motion with the Heritage committee to temporarily pause the bill so that a “charter statement” can be issued by the justice minister. Charter statements identify the potential impact that a given bill might have on rights and freedoms, as well as ensuring the rights and freedoms of Canadians are respected throughout the law-making process.

Exactly how this could impact the timeline on when and if Bill C-10 is passed into legislation is unclear. Guilbeault has said the bill does not pose a threat to Canadians’ rights and that the Conservatives are trying to delay or prevent the new legislation from being passed.

Julie Dabrusin, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Canadian Heritage, held a virtual news conference today (May 4) to address the controversy around the perceived attempt to regulate user-generated content. Dabrusin said the Conservative Party is “falsely accusing” the Liberals of wanting to regulate free speech. “Their political spin is totally false,” she said.

Dabrusin also reiterated that the committee had already adopted clause 2.1, which states that a person who uploads programs is not a broadcasting undertaking for the purposes of the act. “Let me repeat that to be 100% clear. Individuals cannot be considered a broadcaster and cannot be regulated. This bill will not include individuals who post their cat videos. We do not want to regulate your cat videos. The CRTC does not want to regulate your cat videos,” she said.

The debate on whether the motion to pause the bill will be granted will continue on Friday.