NDP says Canada needs an independent social media watchdog

Because assigning internet regulation to the CRTC is "a 1980s solution to a 21st-century problem"

The New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada is calling for the creation of a new, independent regulator to help keep social media giants in check.

The proposed watchdog would “address disinformation, hateful posts and algorithm transparency on digital platforms,” according to reporting from CTV News.

The call is in direct response to increasing concerns over the harmful effects of Facebook (and Facebook-owned properties like Instagram) on users — a conversation that’s been amplified in recent weeks, thanks to some leaked internal reports and damning testimony from a former Facebook data scientist to the U.S. Senate.

The NDP’s motion was put forward by Charlie Angus, the federal Member of Parliament for the Ontario riding of Timmins — James Bay. Angus was quoted criticizing the Competition Bureau and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission as “outdated institutions”  ill-equipped to address digital issues.

This is not the first time Angus has come after social media platforms, specifically Facebook, in their role as an MP.

In 2019, they asked Canada’s lobbying commissioner to investigate Facebook, after leaked documents showed the company met with Conservative MPs without reporting it.

In a letter, Angus wrote that this incident represents “the tip of the iceberg in terms of surreptitious, unregistered high-level contacts with government going back years and spanning two different governments of different partisan stripes.”

How to regulate the internet is a big question being debated in Canadian parliament right now.

For their part, the Liberal government has promised to introduce three internet regulation bills targeting streaming services, harmful content, and news-sharing platforms.

One such piece of legislation is Bill C-10, which would expand the jurisdiction of Canada’s Broadcasting Act to include media sharing and streaming platforms like Netflix, YouTube and Spotify.

However, many — including Angus — don’t think the CRTC is up to the task. In their speech this week, the NDP MP referred to Bill C-10 as a “political dumpster fire” and the idea of putting the CRTC on the file “a 1980s solution to a 21st-century problem.”

The Liberals have also pledged to introduced another piece of legislation — Bill C-36 — to address harmful online content. However, this bill has faced ample criticism as well, with policy research groups like the Citizen Lab suggesting that the legislation be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch.

During the 2021 federal election, the NDP promised to lower Canadians’ cellphone and internet bills to below the global average if elected, and called for the reversal of the CRTC’s wholesale internet rate ruling.

Source: CTV News