After failing to receive Senate approval before the last federal election, Canada’s so-called ‘online censorship bill’ was reintroduced by Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez (pictured) in February of this year. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Justin Tang
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t care about Canadian content creators.
When Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriquez first tabled Bill C-11, the Trudeau government’s online censorship bill, the primary rationale he gave for crafting the legislation was to promote the interests of Canadian content creators.
Bill C-11 “will help make sure that our cultural sector works for Canadians and supports the next generation of artists and creators,” said Rodriguez.
The Trudeau government wants Canadians to think that this bill will simply make Canadian content more accessible and boost the online presence of Canadian artists.
But content creators are saying the government is wrong.
And the government doesn’t care.
Bill C-11 has always been a bad bill. If passed, it would invade Canadians’ privacy and lessen our ability as citizens to hold the government to account by influencing what we can say and see online.
But even beyond those concerns, the government’s very rationale for introducing this legislation has been completely debunked.
Canadian content creators say that the legislation could be a huge blow to their ability to reach audiences around the world.
On platforms like YouTube and TikTok, Bill C-11 would force-feed domestic viewers Canadian content, even if the viewers aren’t interested in the content of the material.
That would then lead to lower click rates, as Canadians not interested in the video’s topic choose not to click on it.
But that then signals to platforms that the content isn’t popular with viewers, leading the platforms’ algorithms to deprioritize Canadian content for viewers beyond our borders.
Don’t just take my word for it. Regina-born TikTok sensation Tesher says that, had Bill C-11 been in place when he was first sharing his music, his career never would have taken off. That’s because Tesher gained popularity outside of Canada’s borders first, and only became popular in Canada later.
If Tesher’s content had be deprioritized abroad before he was discovered by Hindi and Punjabi-speaking fans internationally, Tesher doesn’t think he would have found success.
As Tesher notes, “C-11 would limit that reach by requiring creators to prioritize government criteria for domestic distribution over making content optimized for global audiences.”
Fellow Canadian YouTube star J.J. McCullough agrees.
“Overnight, creators are going to wake up and find the kind of content that has previously been successful in an unregulated YouTube is no longer successful in a regulated YouTube,” said McCullough.
Content might fare a little better in Canada, but it will be harmed all around the world.
YouTube’s top Canadian spokesperson delivered much the same message to the Senate’s transport and communications committee, noting that no other country in the world imposes these kinds of requirements.
Bill C-11 “really puts the international audiences of creators at risk, because if France was to do something like this, or India was to do something like this, where they required prominence for their local artists, Canadians would be going to the back of the line,” said YouTube’s Janette Patell.
Patell also noted that for many Canadian YouTubers, 90 per cent of their viewership comes from outside of Canada. Canadian YouTubers are therefore at risk of losing the vast majority of their audience.
Clearly, Bill C-11 will hurt small-time Canadian content creators far more than it will help.
Bill C-11 also raises huge privacy concerns. Currently, YouTube and other platforms don’t track where viewers are from. But Bill C-11 would force platforms to track where viewers are from to decide what kind of content to push on viewers. That puts Canadians’ privacy on the line.
The last thing Canadians want is to be tracked by online platforms and big brother in Ottawa.
“The bill would represent a step back overall for privacy protection,” said Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien.
If Bill C-11 is all about helping Canadian content creators, recent testimony suggests that the bill should be ripped up, as it does the exact opposite of what the government claims it wants to do.
It’s time to finally scrap this dangerous piece of legislation.
Jay Goldberg is the Ontario Director and Interim Atlantic Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF). This article first appeared on the CTF website on Oct. 1, 2022. Reprinted here with permission.
Jay Goldberg is the Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. He previously served as a policy fellow at the Munk School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. Jay holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Toronto.