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Latest from Michael Geist

Last week, News Media Canada, the lobby group representing the major Canadian news media publishers, released a report calling for the creation of a government digital media regulatory agency that would have the power to establish mandated payments for linking to news articles on social media site, establish what content is prioritized on those sites, and potentially issue fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars. As I noted in my review of the report, it inaccurately describes the proposed Australian approach upon which it is modelled, avoids acknowledging that payments would be for links, and would open the…
Facial recognition technologies seem likely to become an increasingly commonplace part of travel with scans for boarding passes, security clearance, customs review, and baggage pickup just some of the spots where your face could become the source of screening. Tamir Israel, staff lawyer at CIPPIC, the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa, recently completed a major study on the use of facial recognition technologies at the border. He joins me on the LawBytes podcast to discuss the current use of the technologies, how they are likely to become even more ubiquitous in…
News Media Canada (NMC), the lobby group representing the major newspaper publishers in Canada, released a new report yesterday calling for the creation of a government digital media regulatory agency that would have the power to establish mandated payments for linking to news articles, establish what content is prioritized on social media sites, require companies to disclose algorithmic changes, hand over moderation control of content on news stories to the publishers, and potentially issue fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has made “get money from web giants” his top legislative priority and has…
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who says his top legislative priority is to “get money from web giants”, has discussed creating a new mandated licence for social media linking to news articles. Guilbeault calls the practice “immoral” and envisions using the Copyright Board of Canada to create a tariff for linking to news articles accompanied by new government powers to levy penalties for failure to comply. Last week, I looked at a single Toronto Star article to see its engagement on Facebook. Using the CrowdTangle Chrome extension, I found that virtually all public engagement with the article came…
As the second wave of COVID-19 seems to have arrived in many countries, the importance of measures such as social distancing, masks, testing, and tracing takes on increased importance. In Canada, the COVID Alert App is another important part of that toolkit. The app has been downloaded more than 4.5 million times and has been used to alert users to a potential exposure to the virus nearly 1,700 times. Despite the potential benefits, there remain many skeptics. Ann Cavoukian, a three-time Ontario privacy commissioner and one of Canada’s best known privacy experts, joins the LawBytes podcast this week to…
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault was recently asked about his plans to mandate licensing of links to news articles on social-media sites such as Facebook. While the policy is often referred to as a link tax, Mr. Guilbeault insisted that it was not a tax, stating “some people think every time the government acts, it’s a tax. What I’m working on has nothing to do with tax.” Instead of a government tax scheme, Mr. Guilbeault explained that he intends to have the Copyright Board of Canada set a fee for the links to articles, backed by government power to levy…
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has called the practice of linking to news articles on social media sites such as Facebook “immoral” and indicated that he plans to establish a new mandated licensing requirement that would be overseen by the Copyright Board of Canada and backed by the threat of government penalties for failure to comply. Guilbeault’s plan, which is part of his “get money from web giants” legislative priority, could result in Facebook blocking all sharing of news articles in Canada, which would harm Canadian media organizations, the broader public, and contribute to increased profile for questionable or misleading…
In recent months, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has emerged as the de facto digital policy lead minister in Canada with Navdeep Bains largely silent on the race to regulate everything from online linking to how Canadian content is promoted on digital streaming services. New legislation is still forthcoming, but recent comments to industry town halls and press reports provide a good sense of what Guilbeault has in mind. In short, it appears the government will establish an extensive regulatory structure for digital services with registration or licensing requirements and mandated payments for a host of online activities. The amounts…
Earlier this summer, I posted on why I installed the COVID Alert App, the national exposure notification app designed to provide Canadians with an alert if they may have been exposed to COVID-19. The post discusses the privacy safeguards that have been built into the app, the reviews from both the federal and Ontario provincial privacy commissioners, and points to previous Lawbytes podcasts (Edwards, Clayton, Kosseim) that discuss the use of technology to help counter the spread of the virus. While there were some concerns (notably the ongoing concerns with social inequities), I concluded that the…
It was just five years ago that the Liberal party, then mired in third place nationally, made innovation a centerpiece of its electoral strategy. The 2015 Liberal platform referenced “innovation” 10 times with promises to establish a national innovation agenda that would touch on everything from agriculture to the everyday work of government. Within weeks of the election, the role of industry minister was recast as the innovation, science and economic development minister, armed with a mandate letter peppered with instructions to pursue an innovation agenda. Fast forward to 2020 and innovation has largely disappeared from the government’s radar screen with…
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has said that his top legislative priority is to “get money from web giants.” While much of the attention has focused on his ill-advised plan to require Facebook to obtain licences for linking to news articles, his first legislative step is likely to target Internet streamers such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney with new requirements to fund Canadian content and to increase its “discoverability” by making it more prominent for subscribers. Based on his comments at several town halls, Guilbeault is likely to also create new incentives for supporting indigenous and persons of colour in…
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has said that his top legislative priority is to “get money from web giants.” That approach has typically been taken to mean the introduction of digital sales taxes and mandated Cancon payments from Internet streaming services such as Netflix. More recently, Guilbeault has raised the possibility of a link tax or licence, which would be paid by companies such as Facebook or Google merely for linking to news articles. If that wasn’t a sufficiently large digital tax agenda, Guilbeault now says the government is also planning new taxes on data and online advertising. Guilbeault
Last week, I wrote about the need for the Canadian government to reboot its digital agenda, arguing that less than 12 months after the 2019 national election, the policy agenda had gone off the rails with a reversal on affordable telecom services, delays in broadband support and privacy reform, as well as plans for extensive online regulation. The Speech from the Throne, which sets out the government’s agenda, suggests that rather than rebooting the digital agenda, the government has largely deleted it altogether. The speech was the longest throne speech since the Liberal election in 2015, yet there…
As Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault prepares an Internet regulation plan that features the prospect of licences for linking, undermining net neutrality, and trade sanctions, he has typically argued that “it’s about fairness”, suggesting that foreign companies unfairly benefit from the Canadian market at the expense of domestic companies. Yet when Guilbeault appeared at a production sector town hall last week, he was far more candid. Guilbeault told the sector that in a minority government situation, his department had to choose between a massive bill changing “everything under the sun” or to slice it up into smaller pieces. Having…
The government’s decision to prorogue Parliament and launch a new legislative agenda later this month offers more than just an opportunity to recalibrate economic priorities in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic. My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that less than 12 months after the 2019 national election, Canada’s digital policy agenda has gone off the rails and is badly in need of a reboot. The Liberals identified consumer telecom pricing, privacy protection and a modernized internet legal framework as priorities, but have struggled to develop an effective approach. Navdeep Bains, the Innovation, Science and Industry Minister, surprisingly backed a…
Net neutrality has long stood as a foundational Internet policy principle for the current Liberal government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has regularly spoken in support of net neutrality, describing it as “essential to keep the freedom associated with the Internet alive” and claiming that he would defend net neutrality even as the U.S. backtracked by repealing net neutrality regulations: “The idea of throttling certain sites or charging extra for certain services just does not make sense and if we’re going to continue to ensure that … digital technology and use of the internet is the lever to create economic growth…