The Strength of a Broad-Based Coalition: How Canadian Media Reformists Defeated Bill C-30
Posted: 31 Jan 2014
Date Written: January 29, 2014
In February 2012, the Canadian Federal government introduced Bill C-30. The ‘Lawful Access’ Bill proposed legislation that would provide law enforcement agencies unprecedented access to private information about citizens transmitted or held by telecommunication service providers. Notoriously, the Bill would give police new surveillance powers for accessing traffic data, require that ISPs and mobile phone companies hand over customer information without judicial oversight, and challenge tenets in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In response, a broad-based media reform coalition of civil libertarians, public interest groups, and an array of citizens, privacy activists and academics coalesced under the ‘Stop Online Spying’ campaign organized by OpenMedia.ca. The coalition’s tactics were varied, and drew upon the strengths of the entities involved. An early intervention was an educational video about lawful access featuring privacy experts, created and distributed by an established network of academics, and meant for viral and educational distribution. Propelled by this established academic network and similar networks of Canadian media reform organizations, the burgeoning coalition held national forums, local workshops, contributed op-eds, and maintained an active Stop Spying listserv, receiving 160,000 signatures, to further build the movement. Citizen-generated social media included Twitter attacks, memes, viral videos, e-cards, an infamous “vikileaks” protest targeting the Canadian Pubic Safety Minister, and hacker group Anonymous’ “Operation White North”. Both conservative and progressive voices spoke out against the Bill in the mainstream media, joining the vocal opposition from federal and provincial Privacy Ministers. In February 2013, responding to public criticism, the government withdrew the bill from consideration. Anticipating an incarnation of cyber-surveillance legislation, the ‘Stop Online Spying’ campaign continues its advocacy.
Presenting the ‘Stop Online Spying’ campaign as a case study, this paper will argue that the building of a broad-based coalition, especially one that is enhanced by online social networks, has been demonstrated as a successful media reform strategy. Its ability to influence policymakers is linked to a) the promotion of grassroots efforts by raising awareness in the sectors involved, and b) the demonstration of a coalition’s greatest strength – a diverse and united front.
This paper is currently in-progress. Please email the authors for a working version.
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