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Outrage As Canadian Lawmakers Passes Bill To Regulate Social Media, Streaming

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Canadian lawmakers have passed a controversial bill that aims to regulate programming distributed by media streaming services and social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube, a measure that critics warn could infringe on individual speech.

The legislation drafted by Justin Trudeau’s government, known as Bill C-10, is meant to subject tech giants to the same requirements as traditional broadcasters, effectively compelling companies like Netflix Inc. and TikTok Inc. to finance and promote Canadian content. It’s among the most far-reaching plans by governments anywhere to regulate the algorithms tech companies use to amplify or recommend content.

It’s unclear whether the bill will become law, however. The legislation needs to win passage through the Senate, a process that could be pre-empted by an election later this year that would effectively kill the bill.

Trudeau’s government hailed its passage. “There are other issues we have to address when it comes to broadcasting and creation, and we will,” Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said during the final debate Monday evening. Bill C-10 is the first step in that direction.”

Governments around the world are grappling with how to modernize their legal frameworks to account for the global reach of the digital economy, reshaping how policymakers think about issues as varied as monopoly power, taxation, and worker rights.In Canada, an additional worry is how to protect domestic cultural industries as more Canadians turn to internet companies for music and video programming, which is the focus of the new law.

Stunting the influence of U.S. culture, in particular, is a core principle of modern Canadian media law. For decades the government has required radio and television broadcasters to produce and distribute local content.

That stance has irked trading partners because it means that the media sector is often exempted from agreements meant to give foreigners access to Canadian markets. It also means that global media companies can’t own newspapers or television stations in Canada.The challenge is how to regulate content on the internet without undermining individual freedom of expression.

The bill would effectively add three requirements for digital media companies: They must provide information about their revenue sources, give a portion of their profits to a fund to support Canadian content, and increase the visibility or “discoverability” of Canadian content. It would be the first modernization of the country’s broadcasting legislation since 1991.

The bill is popular in Quebec, a French-speaking province where cultural protection is paramount and often an election issue. That’s why the Trudeau government was helped by the Bloc Quebecois, a party that supports Quebec independence, in fast-tracking the legislation through parliament.

The Conservatives, the main opposition, have come out publicly against Bill C-10, and its members voted against it. The bill was passed by legislators on Tuesday morning, June 22, at about 1:30 a.m. Ottawa time in a 196 to 112 vote.

Trudeau’s new broadcasting reforms are the first of a multi-pronged plan by the governing Liberals to regulate and tax digital firms. They also plan to require social media platforms to fund Canadian news outlets and crackdown on online hate speech.

The Canadian government also is threatening to implement a digital services tax of 3% on Canadian revenue starting next year, National Post reports.

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