Bell Canada Pushes Employees to Astroturf For Webs
By admin

Bell Canada Enterprises, Canada's largest communications company, has been pushing hard for the creation of new website filtering and censorship effort aimed at tackling piracy. The controversial proposal would involve the creation of a quasi-government agency dubbed "FairPlay Canada" to block websites that are deemed infringing on content that they, or other members of the coalition supporting this venture, own the broadcast rights to.

Similar action has already been implemented in Australia despite the fact such filters are usually easily bypassed (doing nothing to seriously thwart piracy) while frequently causing collateral damage by blocking legitimate websites.

Hoping to push its agenda the CRTC, as part of the Canadian Federal Department of Heritage, has been more than happy to conduct a public consultation on its website entitled "Application to disable on-line access to piracy sites" (ZIP file) to which individuals and corporations can submit comments, called interventions.

To date, there have been over 5600 comments submitted, and the overwhelming majority are in opposition - even though it has been pointed out that the default option for filing an intervention on the CRTC website is suspiciously set to "Support."

So what's a huge corporation to do? Ask its own employees to astroturf, of course. iPhoneinCanada posted a story showing an anonymous whistleblower alerted Canadian Internet advocate Michael Geist with screenshots of these Internal Bell communications commanding: "Help stop online piracy and protect content creators. You can let the CRTC know you support FairPlay Canada." This despite Bell being fined $1.25 million by the Competition Bureau for a similar stunt of encouraging staff to post positive online reviews back in 2015.

It's unlikely that this story will be covered by any Canadian media outlet, since virtually all of them are owned by vertically-integrated companies that are part of the FairPlay coalition.

Even the staunchly-independent federally-owned CBC, which has traditionally reported on Canadian Internet access issues that monopoly-owned outlets would not, has also backed FairPlay. And don't expect much defence from the government, either, since Canadian Heritage has been dictating what content Canadians have access to for decades, under the guise of Canadian content rules. Being able to put an end to Canadians having a real choice in how and where they access media must be a dream come true for the government and media conglomerates alike. Sadly, this sounds more like North Korea than the land of the "true north strong and free."

It's been pointed out by many comments that the arguments used in the CRTC submission are flawed, use data that in no way relates to Canada, and don't account for the fact that declining subscriber numbers, a key point in justifying why this proposal is necessary, aren't actually indicative of increasing piracy - simply fed-up customers that have decided to give up traditional forms of overpriced and overcontrolled media entertainment and find something else to do with their precious free time.

Huge media companies like Bell, Rogers, and their American kin like Comcast are obviously so desperate to protect their outdated and failing business models, and justify poor financial performance to their shareholders, that they must resort to convincing federal regulators like the CRTC and FCC to change the rules. Even if it means pressuring their own staff into supporting draconian policy that likely infringes on the constitution and the rights of citizens. It is only a futile delay tactic for inevitable change.

You can join the conversation in our Canadian Broadband Forum. Or if you'd like to submit an intervention, you can do that here. Unlike those interested in seeing FairPlay become a reality, DSLReports won't tell you to support or object. But then, we don't need to.

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