Online streaming giants YouTube and TikTok are asking Canadian senators to take a sober second look at an online streaming bill they say would cause significant harm to Canadian digital creators.
TikTok leader Steve de Eyre told a Senate committee meeting Wednesday night that the federal Liberals’ Bill C-11 not only fails to protect digital creators from regulation, but makes them more vulnerable. collateral damages.
He said the Senate should more explicitly exclude user-generated content from the bill, which was designed to modernize Canadian broadcasting legislation and bring online streaming platforms into the fold.
Senators should also consider rules on how Canadian content is identified, he said, saying much of the content Canadians create on TikTok would not be considered as such.
The onus could be on users to prove how Canadian they are, which means “established media and cultural voices” with more resources could end up on the front lines, said de Eyre, who is the director of public policy. of business and government affairs in Canada.
YouTube executive Jeanette Patell told senators that the bill gives far too much leeway to Canada’s broadcasting regulators to make requests regarding user-generated content.
She said the provision that the regulator can consider whether someone has directly or indirectly generated revenue from the content would affect “effectively everything” on the platform.
“This is a global precedent,” said Patell, YouTube’s head of government affairs and public policy.
She warned that if other countries follow suit, Canadian creators, for whom 90% of YouTube views come from outside the country, will have a harder time getting noticed. “There’s nothing like it in the world for open platforms. It really puts the international audience of creators at risk.”
Patell also warned that the regulator could require changes to the company’s algorithms, echoing concerns raised by music streaming giant Spotify during a hearing last week.
This fear is based on the testimony before the committee of Ian Scott, the chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
Scott told senators in June that the regulator could ask platforms such as YouTube to “manipulate” their algorithms to produce particular results.
In a meeting last week, Spotify’s head of artist and label partnerships for Canada, Nathan Wiszniak, said affecting how the platform generates recommendations for individual listeners would go against the grain. of its purpose and could create negative comments for the songs that are released. advised.
“Asking services to repeatedly bias recommendations against listener preferences undermines the fundamental trust we have built with our customers,” he said.
Some Quebec senators have pushed back against the idea that requiring an algorithm to push users to Canadian content is such a bad thing.
Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne said the bill forces companies to choose how to make Canadian artists visible. “Do you have any means other than the algorithm to promote Canadian content?” she asked Patell. “Why are you afraid?”
Senator René Cormier, for his part, noticed during his own use of YouTube that the algorithm recommended English-language music to listen to after Quebec artist Ariane Moffatt, whom he had repeatedly named. “I’m trying to figure out why you can’t continue with the same type of music I’m already listening to,” he said. “Why am I led elsewhere in the recommendations? »
Patell said YouTube is about “You” and its users train the algorithm to meet their needs – so she recommended Cormier “teach” the platform what it’s looking for. When Canadians come looking for Canadian content, she said, “we definitely want to give it to them.”
Although de Eyre said TikTok is “democratizing discoverability,” Bernadette Clement, a senator from Ontario, pointed out that “it’s not democratic if people don’t know how algorithms work.” Patell and de Eyre responded by saying that their companies make their source code and raw data available to researchers.
The streaming companies are recommending specific tweaks to the wording of the bill that they say would allay their concerns.
In June, before Parliament’s summer break, the House of Commons passed Bill C-11 with more than 150 amendments. The Senate decided not to rush its adoption and to take a closer look at it this fall.
If senators decide to amend the bill, it will have to be sent back to the House of Commons for approval before it becomes law.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 21, 2022.