'Nobody has the perfect solution' to regulate web giants, says expert
TORONTO -- With the federal government’s approach to regulating social media and streaming services under a spotlight with the ongoing study of Bill C-10, an expert in digital media has voiced concern that the discussion over the legislation may undermine future attempts to take on web giants.
"I frankly worry that the C-10 discussions are undermining our ability to come up with good collections of legislation," Elizabeth Dubois, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in digital media and political communication, said on the latest episode of Trend Line.
"No one bill is going to regulate the web giants," Dubois said.
Bill C-10 looks to update the Broadcasting Act and includes measures to impose new regulations on social media streaming companies, aimed at levelling the playing field with traditional television and radio broadcasters when it comes to paying their fair share and promoting Canadian content.
The bill has been embroiled in controversy and has prompted free speech concerns, but Dubois said that what is actually being proposed is not that simple.
“All of these platforms, their business model at its very core, is control of our information,” she said. “These companies have a massive amount of power, and so the recognition that maybe that power should be regulated to some extent, I think is an important one.”
She cautioned that the fallout from the growing dispute could harm Canada's capacity to approach future policy changes tackling other aspects of internet regulation, such as the Liberals’ promised online harms legislation.
"Governments are just struggling to try and figure this out, nobody has the perfect solution," said Dubois. "There isn't a country we can point to and say they figured it all out."
Nik Nanos of Nanos Research spoke of the political implications wrapped up in amending the Broadcast Act, which hasn’t undergone a major reform since 1991, before wide availability of the internet.
“We know that at the same time that social media has been an enabler of politics and political dialog, there have been some very unsavoury parts that many people are uncomfortable about that are happening on social media,” said Nanos.
“We're dealing in situations where people are not only spreading hate and lies, there are foreign actors that are looking to influence politics in Canada and around the world, Nanos said, referencing a much larger issue that goes beyond the current Broadcasting Act changes under review and touches on Canada’s election laws.
Nanos said while the Liberal government’s intent and acknowledgement that the Broadcast Act needs to be updated is sound: “I'm not sure whether the prescription that the Liberals are putting out is the right prescription.”
Listen to the full episode of Trend Line with CTVNews.ca's Rachel Aiello and Nanos Research's Nik Nanos wherever you get your podcasts or by clicking on the video at the top of this article.