10 Myths and Misinformation Talking Points About Bill C-11 Debunked

We’ve seen a lot of myths surrounding Bill C-11. We decided to round up some of the biggest doozies and debunk them in one convenient location.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen a lot of talking points about Bill C-11. Some of it is just misunderstanding about the legislation and what it actually does while others are deliberate attempts to mislead the public about the legislation. A vast majority of the misinformation we see comes from mainstream media, but the media isn’t the sole distributor of this. So, what do people tend to get wrong about the legislation? Here’s 10 points that we’ve identified.

Myth: Bill C-11 Levels the Playing Field

Fact: The legislation does exactly the opposite of this. The truth in the matter is that the bill tilts the market into the favour of major media broadcasters and production companies and away from independent creators, smaller production houses and, of course, digital first creators. This comes in many forms.

One form is a sort of financial stacking the deck. Creation programs would be emboldened to finance the biggest players while barring the smaller creators (Like YouTubers, TikTokers, etc.) from collecting the funds.

There’s also marketplace disadvantages this creates such as compelling platforms to promote content that has been specifically selected by the Canadian regulator, the CRTC. It’s a system that makes it incredibly difficult for any smaller creators to even get their foot in the door. Meanwhile, larger production houses and broadcasters have whole teams of representatives regularly working the halls at the CRTC to ensure their content, among other things, becomes qualified “Canadian content”.

Origin: This is often included as a throwaway line in many news articles purporting to be offering an unbiased account of what Bill C-11. If an article includes this line as a generally accepted fact about the legislation, then this is an obvious dead giveaway that the journalist and/or organization is lying to you, the reader.

Myth: Bill C-11 Is About Protecting Canadian/Quebec Culture

Fact: Bill C-11 does precious little to “protect” culture. What it does do is favour the establishment media by compelling platforms to automatically favour their content over any other kind of content. If this was about supporting culture, then it wouldn’t matter who produced the content. However, as the hearings proved, lobbyists are very specific about ownership and who produces the content and are very defensive about who produces the content. This should tell you everything you need to know about whether this bill is about protecting culture or protecting the establishment from the free and open market.

Origin: This myth crops up from time to time as a point defending the legislation in media outlets. Some articles selling the legislation delves into this aspect while others use different talking points.

Myth: Bill C-11 Will Take Down and Censor Content Based on Political Stance

Fact: Bill C-11 is actually much more nefarious then that. It prioritizes content based on content that has been explicitly granted “Cancon” status by the government regulator, the CRTC. Nothing in the bill actually compels a platform to actively remove content whether it is deemed misinformation or otherwise. However, it can be pushed down the priority on certain platforms. Political stance on any issue plays no role in any kind of deprioritization process. While changes were, indeed, made to the bill to put the priority squarely on commercial level music, the bill has not received royal assent yet and there is still a chance that these fixes can be reversed.

The best we can figure, this fear actually stems from problems keeping track of which of the three bills does what. Even after covering these bills for multiple years, I still have to stop and remember which bill is which (and some talking points actually get applied to multiple bills, confusing matters even more!) Where this could become an issue is in the forthcoming Online Harms proposal – a bill that hasn’t been tabled at the House of Commons level. We don’t know if this is part of this forthcoming bill or if it’s a much more blanket approach to the internet. Still, in the hearing stages during the governments drafting process, we can tell that this is one nasty bill in the pipeline. We can only hope that a huge number of the governments plans have been dramatically scaled back.

Origin: Twitter and Facebook feeds by Conservative Party and PPC circles.

Myth: Anyone Can Apply for Creator Funding, so the Concerns About Bill C-11 Are Overblown

Fact: This is flat out untrue. A representative from TikTok Canada has pointed out to me and others that he has never heard of anyone receiving CMF (Canada Media Fund) funding for their TikTok video projects. Quite frankly, I haven’t heard of anyone receiving such funding for any project, either. I actually personally put the CMF to the test by asking them if I should apply for funding in their “Experimental Stream” for my YouTube channel. They have, to date, refused to answer this basic inquiry. If they were truly seeking out creators to fund, such an inquiry would have been happily answered. However, we just proved that the funding isn’t meant for smaller creators like those on YouTube, TikTok, Twitch, etc.

Origin: Various lobbyists at various hearings defending the legislation.

Myth: Section 2.1 Means That User Generated Content is Out of the Bill

Fact: This is straight up false. If you read Section 2.1 of the bill carefully, you’ll note that the section is directed at a “person”. This means that the government won’t regulate the “person” who creates the content. However, the content that the person produce is fair game as far as Section 2.1 is concerned. The real concern was found in Section 4.2 which was recently fixed, however, the fixing of this section is not necessarily final.

Origin: The Department of Canadian Heritage, various Liberal Party MPs speaking in the House of Commons.

Myth: Bill C-11 is in Compliance With All of Canada’s International Trade Obligations Like CUSMA/USMCA

Fact: Article 19.4 of CUSMA/USMCA is where the legislation violates Canada’s international trade obligations. The legislation, combined with the Broadcasting Act, is supposedly going after platforms that would, in the minds of officials at the CRTC, trigger the objectives of the Broadcasting Act. Specifically, whether or not such a platform has a material impact in the marketplace. The platforms that have already been flagged by the CRTC are predominantly US based platforms (with some rare exceptions). Article 19.4 bars unfair treatment to specific digital services. Between demanding that platforms contribute to various funds specifically highlighted by the Canadian government and prioritizing specific kinds of content, there is most certainly international legal liability. Further, the US, through their ambassadors, have also warned Canada on multiple occasions about their concerns with Bill C-11 – something that the Canadian government, until very recently, worked hard to deny.

Origin: Global Affairs Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, and various government officials.

Myth: Bill C-11 is a Massive Conspiracy Orchestrated by the WEF to Censor Conservative Voices

Fact: Despite multiple attempts to track down where the World Economic Forum has explicitly pushed this legislation, no source I’ve seen has been able to find attribution of this. It’s been held exclusively in conspiracy theory circles and nothing more. Further, the legislation, as previously discussed, does not contain provisions that explicitly takes content down in any way shape or form. Also, as previously mentioned, there is no mechanism found in the bill that explicitly targets content based on political leaning or veracity of the content in question.

Origin: Various Twitter and Facebook feeds within Conservative and PPC circles.

Myth: Algorithms on Various Platforms are Opaque. Bill C-11 Fixes This By Requiring Transparency and Accountability

Fact: Bill C-11 talks very little about algorithms. What the legislation does say is that the CRTC can’t order the platforms to implement a specific algorithm provided by the CRTC. However, the legislation does provide a loophole that allows the CRTC to order platforms to deliver specific outcomes of those algorithms (the words by CRTC Chair, Ian Scott himself).

There is definitely debate on whether or not more accountability and transparency would be beneficial in this specific circumstance. On the one hand, you have those who believe that it would be beneficial while others have pointed out that too much transparency could very easily lead to nefarious players gaming the system for their own benefit. I personally lean towards the fear that disclosing too much could lead to nefarious players gaming the system. However, nothing in Bill C-11 actually addresses and of this. As such, it is straight up false to suggest that Bill C-11 brings in any algorithmic transparency.

Origin: Various media reports, lobbyists pushing for Bill C-11 at various hearings.

Myth: Bill C-11 is About Ensuring that Canadian Can Continue Telling Canadian Stories

Fact: This is a favourite talking point by lobbyists, but Bill C-11 does very little to ensure this. At most, the biggest broadcasters could theoretically afford to tell stories they want to tell because they would then have the power to compel the platforms to surface their content. However, it’s touch and go if this content would even be talking about Canadian stories because the broadcasters get to decide what is and isn’t worthwhile stories to tell.

The current Cancon rules deciding what is and isn’t Canadian content is so convoluted, “documentaries” about Donald Trump qualifies while works written by Canadian author, Margaret Atwood do not. Numerous lobbyists have pushed for rules to be even tighter and make it even more difficult for content to be qualified. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Those actions say that this is about protectionism for special interests rather than any need to “tell Canadian stories”.

Origin: Various news articles, lobbyists speaking at various hearings.

Myth: The Platforms Actively Suppress Canadian Content. Bill C-11 Stops this Market Abuse

Fact: This is another one of those off again, on again conspiracy theories that has absolutely no evidence to back it up. Every time I see this crop up, I look to see if there is absolutely any stitch of evidence that the platforms are engaging in intentional nefarious activities that actively suppresses content produced or otherwise published by Canadians. Every single time, all I saw was a wild accusation that had had zero evidence to back these accusations up. Instead, it’s always been just writers who keep repeating this as if this was somehow an established fact when it is anything but. What it does amount to is defamation against the platforms who likely don’t do what they are accused of doing.

If platforms like YouTube or TikTok actually did this sort of thing, then there would be no such thing as Canadian creators who are making a name for themselves. The truth in the matter is that there are many Canadian content creators actively making a name for themselves and earning a living – even creating companies as a result of this. Creators like this includes Super Simple Songs, Linus Tech Tips, Furious Pete, J.J. Mccullough, Resilient Inuk, SomeOrdinaryGamers, AuntySkates, BrittleStar, Darcy Michael, Jennifer Valentyne, and countless others. If Canadian creators were actively suppressed, wouldn’t you think that I couldn’t name a single success story? It never added up.

Trust me, I’m no fan of unreasonable censorship. If issues of unjust censorship crops up, I am more than happy to complain about it myself. The problem is that I have yet to see any evidence of what is being accused here.

Origin: Various mainstream news articles.

While these 10 myths being busted doesn’t address every single piece of misinformation, we hope that we got most, if not, all the big ones in this roundup. I’ve been wanting to produce something like this for a long time because I get annoyed seeing some of these talking points crop up again and again – each appearance not making them any more true than the previous appearances. What’s more, I have tweaked things to address the recent changes in the bill as well which actually improves the situation. The big change doesn’t fix absolutely everything by any means, but one of the biggest problems – being that it directly gets the CRTC to regulate user generated content.

Hopefully, the above allows you to get a much clearer and more sober idea of what Bill C-11 actually does and doesn’t do. Another piece of general advice (which can be a bit tricky for someone like myself to try and parse at times) is to try and separate what each of the three bad bills does. Bill C-11 is about content posted on platforms. Bill C-18 is about link taxes. Online harms goes after speech in general and determines what is “good” or “bad” speech. What sometimes happens is that the debates start getting blurry and people confuse one point about one bill when they are really referring to another bill.

A good example might be someone saying that Bill C-11 is about ensuring that journalists are properly paid for their work and Bill C-18 is just the next step in this. Obviously, Bill C-11 has little to do with journalism specifically and is more broadly capturing content, but that didn’t stop one union representative from making this particularly bad blunder! The debate about funding for “journalism” is actually squarely within the debate about Bill C-18 (and even then, it’s misinformation to say that Bill C-18 is about funding for all journalism, but that’s best left for another article).

As Bill C-18 works it’s way through the Canadian Senate, there will definitely be increased coverage of that legislation as well. This will only contribute to the difficulties of separating the different debates that are on similar, but in many ways, different debates. It’s a very hard thing to do at times, but it should be something to try and keep in the back of your mind moving forward.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

1 Trackback or Pingback

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: