Minister Behind Canada's Social Media Bill Now Says It Will Regulate User Generated Content

from the shifting-stories dept

Update: The Minister has now attempted to backtrack these latest comments and repeated his insistence that the bill will not apply to social media users, though the impact the regulatory powers — which he says will apply to the platforms — will have on users remains unclear.

Throughout the Canadian government's legislative push to give broadcast regulators power over online services, the story on exactly what the bill would do has continually shifted, and its author, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, has been consistently vague and evasive in the face of questioning from other lawmakers and the media. He has repeatedly insisted that Bill C-10 is designed to target large audio and video services that act like broadcasters, but will not impact individual users of sites like YouTube and Twitch — despite the fact that the clause which would have clearly prevented this was removed and a new amendment confirms that social media will be subject to at least some regulation.

The latest development is another change in the story: in a recent interview, Guilbeault stated that the new regulatory powers can apply to YouTube channels:

"What we want to do, this law should apply to people who are broadcasters, or act like broadcasters. So if you have a YouTube channel with millions of viewers, and you're deriving revenues from that, then at some point the CRTC will be asked to put a threshold. But we're talking about broadcasters here, we're not talking about everyday citizens posting stuff on their YouTube channel," Guilbeault said.

One of the main points critics of the bill have been making is that, despite Guilbeault's insistence that it won't impact individual users, he's never been able to explain why not given the powers the bill gives to the broadcast regulators at the CRTC. This latest comment just confirms it: whatever the stated intent, the bill leaves it up to the CRTC to decide if and when to extend their new regulatory powers to a user of a platform like YouTube. He frames this as not impacting "everyday citizens" but, of course, many everyday citizens on social media can get huge audiences on par with major broadcasting operations — that's kind of the whole point, and one of the reasons people are rightfully opposed to the government regulating people's speech on those platforms. And of course, as always, the bill doesn't offer any clear, solid protections against overreach — nor does Guilbeault:

Asked repeatedly what the threshold would be for CRTC scrutiny, whether a certain number of millions of followers, or a certain amount of advertising revenue, the minister said it’s something the government will ask the CRTC to determine, but that it would be entities that have a "material impact on the Canadian economy."

This vague and almost meaningless condition isn't very reassuring, especially coming from the same person who recently insisted that the bill wouldn't impact users of these platforms at all.

Opposition to the bill is rightfully growing throughout Canada and across party lines, and there's a growing amount of speculation about the legal challenges that C-10 is likely to face if passed. If the government really wants to achieve its primary stated goal of getting major audio and video services like Netflix and Spotify to support Canadian content the way traditional broadcasters are required to (a proposal that still raises significant questions that will need to be examined), they're first going to need to unveil a completely revamped bill that actually addresses people's very real concerns and places clear limitations on the CRTC's power to ensure that it won't curtail Canadians' freedom of speech, and stop trying to feed the country a vague and shifting story interspersed with desperate promises that the bill won't do what everyone can see it will.

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Filed Under: c-10, canada, content, crtc, regulations, steven guilbeault, streaming, videos
Companies: youtube


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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 10:54am

    stop trying to feed the country a vague and shifting story interspersed with desperate promises that the bill won't do what everyone can see it will

    That notion could apply to every opponent of Section 230 here in the States, too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Jojo (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 10:59am

    Listen, you disgraceful abuser of the word “Liberal...”

    Just because you’re implying that “some” YouTube and Twitch Channels are under regulation, doesn’t mean that it makes C-10 any more justified. It’s still regulating User-Created Content and still an invasion of free speech. And even if you are promising that you won’t abuse your power. It still gives the tools that will be abused eventually.

    Absolute Power corrupts absolutely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Leigh Beadon (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 11:16am

    Re:

    Thanks, just saw this as the post was going out. Have added an update at the top, and going to dig a bit more into his latest comments (they are still super unclear)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 12:09pm

    let me translate

    Of course we're not going to impose these rules on you! What's that, you want it speicifcally spelled out in the bill? why do I need to dot hat? I mean it's clear that I'm telling you it now, so thats good enough, right? I mean I wouldn't lie? Oh yeah, except for then, and then, and those other times sure, but not now, eh!
    Others aren't bound by what I say? But I'm a big important person, surely it matters what I say in this entirely unofficial, non-binding pile of worthless platitudes right? No? What do you mean if I meant it I'd be able to put a ring around it on the legislation, it's like you don't trust me.
    Wait, you don't trust me? I mean, why wouldn't you? I mean sure the lies, and yeah, I forget things I said when it's convenient, and I flip-flop when it's to my advantage, but come on, trust me on this, eh?
    You don't? er... shit... er, ok, it was a joke, er, ok, I'll see what I can change things to, and er, I've got a meeting now, with some important stakeholders, you wouldn't know them, they live in America. No they're not lobbyists, why would you say that? Oh, because I've a history of pandering to lobbyists and only backing down as little as possible when I can't lie my way through? I see your point...
    to aides RUN AWAY!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    PaulT (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 12:14pm

    "So if you have a YouTube channel with millions of viewers, and you're deriving revenues from that, then at some point the CRTC will be asked to put a threshold. But we're talking about broadcasters here, we're not talking about everyday citizens posting stuff on their YouTube channel"

    That does say it all, doesn't it? The minister is educated enough on the tech to understand that YouTube can't be regulated as a "normal" broadcaster since they have no prior editorial control over the content and thus are operating on a totally different structure.

    But, he's dumb enough to leave himself open to the questions that requires desperate backtracking - at what point does an "everyday citizen" lose his status as such? How many views does a person get before they are no longer a citizen posting content, and become a "broadcaster"? Is that a hard limit that can happen randomly if someone has a video go viral, or does it require an extended period of popularity? Does he lose that status permanently, or does he return to being an "everyday citizen" if his numbers go down?

    I get that, ultimately, the relationship with broadcasters in Canada are there to stop local content being overwhelmed by US content, but if someone like me from the other side of the Atlantic can immediately spot massive holes in the argument he's making to defend his bill, why can't the locals writing the bill?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 1:57pm

    'We're not doing X, we just want the power to do X for reasons.'

    I'm getting some wicked flashbacks to the Copyright Directive over in the EU and how I expect things to happen should this pass...

    Before the bill passes: Of course this won't do X, anyone telling you that is engaging in baseless fearmongering, I pinky-promise in extremely vague terms it doesn't do X and I would know, I'm the one pushing it!

    After bill passes: Well of course the bill does X, the stated goal will clearly require X so it's only natural that that will happen. I don't get why this is such a big surprise to people or why they're acting surprised that it does X when it was clearly written with that goal in mind.

    He has repeatedly insisted that Bill C-10 is designed to target large audio and video services that act like broadcasters, but will not impact individual users of sites like YouTube and Twitch — despite the fact that the clause which would have clearly prevented this was removed and a new amendment confirms that social media will be subject to at least some regulation.

    Yeah, getting rid of a clause that would specifically exempt social media from these regulations makes it crystal clear that social media is absolutely in the cross-hairs here. If they didn't plan to apply the regulations to social media then having that clause would have been a huge help in addressing concerns, it's removal makes it clear that those concerns are absolutely justified and confirms them.

    If the government really wants to achieve its primary stated goal of getting major audio and video services like Netflix and Spotify to support Canadian content the way traditional broadcasters are required to (a proposal that still raises significant questions that will need to be examined), they're first going to need to unveil a completely revamped bill that actually addresses people's very real concerns and places clear limitations on the CRTC's power to ensure that it won't curtail Canadians' freedom of speech, and stop trying to feed the country a vague and shifting story interspersed with desperate promises that the bill won't do what everyone can see it will.

    Better idea: If the goal is to get more canadian content on major platforms create a fund that can be tapped by canadian content creators to make shows, art, music and whatnot that's good enough that those major platforms want it. If your content is good and desirable you don't need to force it onto a platform, they'll be happy to host it and reap the benefits from doing so, trying to force the issue just sends the message that they don't have anything of worth and know it, which... is not a good look.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    sumgai (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 2:02pm

    Re:

    if someone like me from the other side of the Atlantic can immediately spot massive holes in the argument he's making to defend his bill, why can't the locals writing the bill?

    Because:

    ... getting major audio and video services like Netflix and Spotify to support Canadian content the way traditional broadcasters are required to...

    This certainly passes the Smell Test. That rule about "5% of all content must originate in Canada" comes from the exact same people who populate France and it's lonely outpost, Quebec. IOW, (and this is an exact quote): "They're stealing our culture by English-izing our beautiful French language". You can guess how I feel about that one.

    It shouldn't take too long for a search engine to cough up the number of Canadian-born actors who made it big in Hollywood, first or otherwise.

    I can only hope that every YT channel operator, Canadian or otherwise, starts including episodes of The Hosers, that'd tickle me pink. Oh, and throw in some Red Green while they're at it.

    But the sad fact is, where "broadcasting" for revenue or otherwise means that the viewer is locked in to what the originator is putting out, a YT viewer can pick and choose what he/she wants to see - nothing the Canadian Government can do will be able to force a viewer (from anywhere!) to pick and view any particular content, regardless of where it originated. Perhaps... unless they start operating some kind of lottery, where the winning numbers are shown within some particular video, one that gets taken down once a winner comes forth. That just might justify picking and choosing to view a Canadian-born vid.... but it's a stretch, I admit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    sumgai (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 2:08pm

    Re: 'We're not doing X, we just want the power to do X for reaso

    Better idea: If the goal is to get more canadian content on major platforms create a fund that can be tapped by canadian content creators to make shows, art, music and whatnot that's good enough that those major platforms want it. If your content is good and desirable you don't need to force it onto a platform, they'll be happy to host it and reap the benefits from doing so, trying to force the issue just sends the message that they don't have anything of worth and know it, which... is not a good look.

    That's actually a good idea, it gets my squeal of approval! :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2021 @ 4:03pm

    Yeah.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2021 @ 4:19pm

    Re:

    I get that, ultimately, the relationship with broadcasters in Canada are there to stop local content being overwhelmed by US content,

    But if a YouTuber lives in Canada, their content is Canadian content, unless there is a definition of Canadian content that is not met by Canadian YouTubers. Does he mean a woodworking or machining channel has to produce some folksy Canadian culture related content that has nothing to do with the normal content of the channel?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2021 @ 4:22pm

    This bill makes no sense there's millions of videos uploaded on YouTube every day, you can't treat it like tv, where there's a limited amount of channels to watch,
    Podcasting got popular because it's an open platform anyone can make a podcast
    It's up to the viewer or listener to find what they want
    Trying to treat the Web like cable TV is pointless
    since there's endless space for content on the web
    Ireland has funding for creators to make content drama.s entertainment TV comedy etc
    And it has tg4 an gaelic TV language channel
    it's simple and it works
    The point of YouTube is anyone can make content
    if you get enough viewers you make money from ads
    If you make good content people will probably find it
    I think Canadian cable TV and TV stations have to show some percentage
    of Canadian made programs and that's ok

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Eldakka (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 8:17pm

    This sounds complicated.

    Let's choose some arbitrary large number of Youtube subscribers (for simplicitly, could be a per-video viewer numbers, or revenue, or whatever) say 10 million.

    So, will it apply to a Canadian-based channel that has 10 million subscribers? What about non-Canadian channels, say a German channel, it's still 'on' Youtube, so it can be viewed by Canadian Youtube subscribers, it's got 10+ million subscribers, so would it apply to this German users/business/organisation channel?

    Is it 10 million Canadian subscribers? How about a Canadian-based channel that has 1 million Canadian subscribers, but 9 million+ foreign subscribers. Would it apply to them?

    What about a German-based channel with 10 million Canadian subscribers and a buttload of non-Canadian subscribers?

    You might need set theory to start trying to work this all out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    PaulT (profile), 10 May 2021 @ 11:53pm

    Re: Re:

    "Because:

    ... getting major audio and video services like Netflix and Spotify to support Canadian content the way traditional broadcasters are required to..."

    Netflix and Spotify individually licence or otherwise acquire and approve what is on their service. YouTube have no way of knowing what will be added to their service or by whom until after it's added.

    These are still totally different services, even if they are vaguely similar by the virtue of being streaming services. I would hope that the distinction is obvious to everyone, but politicians trying to grandstand don't always understand pesky facts.

    "But the sad fact is, where "broadcasting" for revenue or otherwise means that the viewer is locked in to what the originator is putting out, a YT viewer can pick and choose what he/she wants to see"

    This is also true. While live in Spain, I consume very little locally produced content on YouTube. There's nothing YouTube can really do about that. While I am fluent in Spanish, I tend to favour English language content for comedy, film/videogame criticism or tech education, my musical tastes favour UK and US produced music over and above the reggaeton that dominates the local charts, and the random hard to find cult movies I source there are as likely to be Asian produced as they are Spanish. There's nothing that either YouTube or the Spanish government would be able to do to force me to watch local content, and any attempt to do so would just make the service far less useful.

    In a purely broadcast system where your local content has to compete with a neighbouring country that will always have bigger budgets and dictate the overall landscape, it's sensible to have some limits to enable local content to gain an audience and thrive to some degree rather than being overwhelmed. But, there's not a huge amount you can realistically do when the end user can choose between pretty much everything produced on the entire planet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 May 2021 @ 12:00am

    Re: Re:

    The definition of "Canadian content" might be in the eye of the beholder. In the 70s/80s, Canada had a tax shelter scheme intended to promote the production of Canadian content. I imagine that the intention was to produce movies that had a more Canadian cultural focus, which is did do. But, it also led to the "Canuckspoitation" cycle, where a bunch of slasher movies and sex comedies got traction due to their more commercial nature, and finally ended among controversy from pearl clutchers distraught at the David Cronenberg movies that tax dollars were funding. A similar thing happened in Australia with the "ozsploitation" cycle, where locals were offended by the action and horror movies they were funding.

    I think that bottom line if that if you're going to be funding "local" content, you have to think in terms of getting Canadian artists help getting their work funded and distributed. If you're going to think in terms of directing the content itself, you're going to have a bad time...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 May 2021 @ 12:52am

    Re:

    On top of those problems you've also got the issue that if getting enough subscribers opens you up to content regulations then canadian content creators will end up punished for their success, as unless their content already falls into the 'canadian enough' category they're likely to be forced to create and include content of that sort, which might not be a viable option for them and is likely to result in them losing subscribers who were following them for their original content but who might not care about the new, mandatory content they are being forced to push.

    Far from protecting canadian creators this stands to harm them, imposing restrictions and punishing them for being too successful and leaving those who aren't bound by such a stupid law to scoop up the users that decide that they aren't that interested in 'mandatory canadian content time' videos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 11 May 2021 @ 1:04am

    Re: Listen, you disgraceful abuser of the word “Liberal...

    It’s still regulating User-Created Content and still an invasion of free speech.

    The convenient thing for the bill's proponents is that Canada does not have any real guarantees of free speech. It is always subject to a balancing test. Since the test is generally done by the government, you should be able to predict how it will turn out.

    Remember, the First Amendment stops when you ride over that trestle at Niagara Falls.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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