Canadian Government Calls TikTok Slideshow Accurately Describing the Debate as “Disappointing”

The Canadian government and Bill C-11 supporters are desperately pointing to a slideshow in an effort to attack opponents.

In pushing Bill C-11, the Canadian government has been finding themselves increasingly isolated in their quest to regulate user generated content. Pretty much the only ones left supporting the bill are those involved in the traditional broadcasting sector, big publishing, and a handful of naive unions that have mistakenly believed that supporting this bill would benefit their members (it won’t). This as the opposition has been large and unified in pointing out why the bill needs either reform or to be scrapped altogether (the latter of which is preferable from our standpoint).

Indeed, for the few supporters left of Bill C-11, point after point they try raising continues to get shot down quite decisively. As a result, they have been growing increasingly quiet in an effort to draw as little attention to the legislation as humanly possible. It’s probably the best move they can make at this point given that there really is no viable defence for such a blatantly unconstitutional bill.

Now, we obviously try to keep an ear open for whenever someone tries to offer a reason to support the legislation. Unlike some supporters, we don’t believe in censorship and we do hear out those who disagree with us. Recently, we did find someone trying to be supportive of the legislation. At first, we were interested because maybe this individual might have some insight about the bill overlooked by others. The bill, after all, is quite complex and it affects a lot of different professions, so that is an enormously easy thing to do. Unfortunately, that’s not what this individual did.

Instead, what this individual did was to try and completely rewrite history and say that opposition is just influenced by the evil “Big Tech” companies. Even one of our recent articles highlights why this isn’t true, but this individual tried to run with this anyway. The individual wrote as a freelancer to a publication known as BetaKit. Admittedly, we haven’t heard of this publication until this article was published on it. The author said that they have obtained a slideshow from TikTok describing the state of the debate. From BetaKit:

In early February, TikTok Canada and a new advocacy group quietly held a presentation for digital creators and online influencers, telling them that the Online Streaming Act, tabled by the federal government just one week earlier, could harm their international success and earnings potential.

The presenters encouraged digital creators to “make [their] voice heard” on the legislation, which would require some tech platforms to make Canadian content discoverable and contribute to cultural funding in the country.

So far, nothing here is particularly unusual. I’m sure that anyone working for a traditional company would like to know if something from the legislative front could affect them. Whether that word comes from the union or the company itself, it doesn’t necessarily matter. So, why should that be any different from TikTok’s perspective? We’re not really sure.

What’s more is that Bill C-11 can, in theory, present a mutual threat. TikTok could very easily suffer because, under the new rules under this legislation, a portion of their users could suddenly suffer from revenue losses due to overly burdensome bureaucratic rules. That could negatively affect the bottom line for TikTok right from the outset, let alone what new mechanisms the government is demanding they implement. From the users side, this is something we’ve beaten to death many times before, but they could suddenly see their success get hampered by requirement that government anointed “Canadian content” get preferential treatment over their content. No matter how you slice it, this will negatively impact those creators one way or another.

The article then says this:

Slides from the presentation, obtained by BetaKit, drew comparisons between digital creators’ commercial success and cultural relevance to a global audience and “how [policymakers] see us.” They claimed policymakers considered creators not professional or culturally valuable, stealing attention from ‘real’ artists and as the creators of “cat videos,” the latter a reference to comments from Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez. The presentation also claims that with digital creators’ work not qualifying as ‘Canadian content’ under existing rules, getting that work certified would be overly cumbersome.

The article posts a screenshot of the slide show which basically says this:

Where do Creators Fit In?

Who We Are

  • By far Canadians largest cultural export
  • The majority of Canadian success stories in media
  • Most diverse and representative cohort in Canada
  • Self made
  • Revenue/Tax generators
  • Unregulated

How They See Us

  • “Cat videos”
  • Not “Canadian”
  • Not Professionals
  • Not Culturally Viable
  • Unapproved users of copyright
  • Stealing the attention from “real” artists

The slide itself seems pretty accurate. Throughout the debate, we’ve seen supporters regularly refer to “cat videos” as if to say that this is what people post online. There’s been numerous instances where Bill C-11 supporters insinuate that no one on sites like YouTube are “true” professionals in the field and that only traditional broadcasters and newspaper publishers are part of the Canadian cultural landscape worth supporting.

The references towards how online creators are only there “stealing” from copyrighted works dates all the way back to the beginnings of YouTube where large media outlets jokingly refer to YouTube as “SueTube” because they believed that YouTube is just a large piracy operation that’s going to get sued out of existence. Major record labels and movie studios regularly railed against sites like YouTube for being nothing more than massive vehicles for theft of copyrighted works. This despite countless creators building their careers creating original content over the years. While those references that the Internet is nothing more than theft of copyrighted material has waned in recent years, it’s not a surprise that some are still pushing those false narratives.

As for the first part of the slide, everything on that list does ring relatively true. Probably the only thing that is even remotely problematic might be the assertion that they are unregulated. Arguably, creators do have heavy regulation when it comes to copyright thanks to things like the notorious ContentID employed by YouTube as well as the DMCA systems employed by other platforms. It’s been hugely problematic for creators given the epidemic of false notices and censorship by copyright problems as well because these DMCA systems are overwhelmingly against creators. Otherwise, it’s hard to really see anything really wrong with the slide itself.

For the author, this somehow represents a problem, though:

“It was a bit uncomfortable because it was clear they were talking about things that I’m not sure were entirely true,” said a member of the Canadian arts and culture industry who attended the presentation and asked to remain anonymous to protect relationships with TikTok.

The heritage ministry declined multiple requests from BetaKit to comment on the presentation or the organizations involved in this story, but it’s clear the efforts have drawn ire.

“Disappointed is an understatement,” said a government source who requested anonymity as they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. They characterized the lobbying efforts as tantamount to a foreign tech company partnering with a Canadian organization to misrepresent the government’s policy positions and goals.

So, what is so problematic in those people’s perspective? The article doesn’t really get into that. It’s just that it’s something that was made by TikTok and that is somehow bad because they had a big scary slideshow, end of story. Yeah, we know, very weird indeed.

The article then goes into what Michael Geist has been saying about the debate. The article mentions how CRTC chair, Ian Scott repeatedly admitted that Bill C-11 regulates user generated content, but then tries desperately to believe their promise that they totally pinky swear they won’t actually use the powers that have been so heavily pushed in the first place.

From there, the article says this:

While policy experts and government officials debate the merits of the bill, it may be the creators who get caught in the middle. Multiple members of the arts and culture industry who spoke with BetaKit called the TikTok Canada event misleading to online creators.

“To present the bill in that manner is very disingenuous,” said a music industry professional, who also asked to remain anonymous due to a relationship with TikTok. “I’m sure [disadvantaging digital creators] is not the target of the government.”

This, of course, is exceedingly misleading because Music Canada openly sided with Bill C-11 critics. On top of that, major Canadian record label, Nettwerk Music Canada, also blasted the legislation as well. So, the suggestion that the music industry is happy with the legislation doesn’t really add up.

The article tries attacking the idea that opposition to Bill C-11 isn’t really a grass roots movement. So, with the slideshow actually being a bust, the article then tries digging through lobbying records:

TikTok Canada logged 14 meetings since January with members of Parliament and heritage staffers, including Rodriguez’s chief of staff and Bloc Quebecois member of Parliament Martin Champoux, the vice-chair of the standing committee on Canadian Heritage, to discuss issues related to arts and culture and broadcasting, according to the federal lobbyist registry.

The company registered an additional lobbyist one day before the Online Streaming Act was introduced to “engage federal officials on policies to support digital-first content creators and foster the creation, discoverability and exportability of Canadian cultural content online, including Indigenous and French-language content,” according to its company’s lobbyist registration.

This, of course, pails in comparison to the culture lobby who heavily lobbied the Canadian government since the legislation was known as Bill C-10. So, you would get the impression here that when big publishing and broadcasters do the lobbying, that’s all fine and dandy, nothing to see here. If TikTok registers a handful of meetings, then that is clearly is a sign of backroom dealing and corruption that must be brought under the microscope.

The author then tries attacking Digital First Canada by trying to play up the idea that it’s unclear who funds the organization. Do broadcasters get the same level of scrutiny? It doesn’t appear to. Isn’t that convenient? Instead, the author just takes Bill c-11 supporters and the government at their word without question:

Benzie faced similar questions from MP Steve Bittle, parliamentary secretary to the heritage minister, during his presentation to the heritage committee on a separate bill in late March.

“These platforms have incredible unchecked power over these creators. These are some of the largest companies in the world, and in looking at your website and your Twitter account, both for you personally and for your organization, they are absent anything except for C-10,” said Bittle.

The article then meanders into attacking YouTube Canada for being very open to their opposition to Bill C-11:

According to the federal lobbyist registry, lobbyists for Google Canada, YouTube Canada’s parent company, have met with parliamentarians and heritage staffers, including Rodriguez, about media and broadcasting issues 16 times since January.

The author then concludes then simply glosses over all the valid criticism of Bill C-11 and concludes that, what is really happening, is that “Big Tech” is just trying to avoid regulation and nothing more:

The industry member who attended TikTok Canada and Digital First Canada’s presentation drew similar conclusions. They speculated that TikTok’s participation, along with the broader tech pushback, is rooted in a desire to avoid regulation.

“I think personally it’s that tech doesn’t want to be regulated locally, and on any issue. … They always come back and [claim] free speech, or say those who are trying to regulate are trying to break the internet, which is pretty simplified,” they said.

“Entertainment is always the canary in the coal mine for most issues.”

The article is ultimately dripping with desperation to find anything, just anything, to try and deflect from the actual debate about Bill C-11. It was clear that the author wanted to find fault with the criticisms of the text itself, but couldn’t find any. The author then thought they hit pay dirt when they got a TikTok slide show, but even throughout the course of the article, it became clear that nothing was really found that paints anyone opposing the legislation in a bad light. The author attempted to attack those opposed to the legislation, but that ended up being rather weak. So, the author relied on an anonymous comment that concluded that this is all just a big conspiracy by “Big Tech” to create an AstroTurf campaign to stop the angelic people in government passing all these good laws.

Probably the only surprise that such a weak attempt at creating a hit piece was even published. It’s surprising the editor going through the article didn’t just sit there and say, “Yeah, I appreciate that effort went in to this, but I don’t see the story here.” The article itself doesn’t even come close to moving the needle on things – no doubt to the disappointment of the author who probably sees how desperately poor the situation is for supporters at this point and wanted to do something. Had the author been wise with what was dug up, then a white flag probably should have been raised before the article was submitted for review. Now, they have this embarrassment associated with their name. So, another flop by Bill C-11 supporters.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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