Lobby Groups Call for the Regulation of User Generated Content, Video Games, Algorithms

Lobby groups just can’t help themselves. They are asking the CRTC to regulate user generated content, video games, and algorithms.

The lobbyists burning hatred towards the internet and freedom of expression was on full display again. Throughout the Bill C-11 debate, Canadian creators and innovators were insultingly dismissed as little more than “cat videos”. While the remarks of Canadian creators being blasted as “that’s not art” was asinine enough as it was, the “cat video’s” comments by the bills supporters was over the top. Canadian creators responded to these comments with mockery:

(Note, music was from Bongo Cats)

Canadian creator, Brittlestar, also offered his own reaction to this:

Despite the pushback from Canadian creators, Bill C-11 was passed despite senate reservations. The senate simply shrugged with their attempt to put in stopgap measures to protect freedom of expression and said, “oh well, we tried.” After all, what highly paid lobbyists says goes in this government no matter what.

Currently, the legislation is before the CRTC for a “consultation” (quotations because the CRTC did everything they could to ensure only the barest of minimum of public responses in the process).

The government gently tipped their hand with its policy direction, suggesting that maybe they won’t destroy everyone’s livelihoods and drive popular services to the exits by possibly not regulating things like user generated content, video games, and algorithms.

For lobbyists, however, the cruelty, crackdown on freedom of expression, and destruction of peoples lives is the point. Various levels of being anti-internet presented itself throughout the consultations. The most extreme call came from ACCORD that calls for the removal of all exceptions including user generated content, video games, and algorithmic manipulation. The original submission is in French, so here’s Michael Geist’s notes on this:

The most troubling publicly available document comes from a coalition that calls itself ACCORD, representing songwriters, composers, and music publishers. The group has posted its submission to the government’s consultation on the draft policy direction to the CRTC on Bill C-11. All submissions are not yet posted, but I should note that I also submitted a brief document, calling on the government to fully honour its commitment to exclude user content and algorithms from regulation and to establish limits on discoverability regulation.

The government’s draft direction had called for “minimizing” algorithmic regulation and the exclusion of user content and video game regulation. The music lobby is now calling on the government to rollback virtually all of its commitments on these issues. The draft direction states:

The Commission is directed not to impose regulatory requirements on

(a) online undertakings in respect of the programs of social media creators, including podcasts; and

(b) broadcasting undertakings in respect of the transmission of video games.

The lobby wants virtually all of this removed, deleting references to online undertakings and video games. Moreover, the directive speaks to Section 4.2, stating:

In exercising its powers under section 4.2 of the Act, the Commission is directed to set out clear, objective and readily ascertainable criteria, including criteria that ensure that the Act only applies in respect of programs that have been broadcast, in whole or in significant part, by a broadcasting undertaking that is required to be carried on under a licence or that is required to be registered with the Commission but does not provide a social media service.

Here too the lobby group wants most of the paragraph deleted. And while the government directed the CRTC to minimize algorithmic regulation for discoverability purposes, the groups wants those limitations removed as well. In short, the lobby groups validate the concerns expressed by thousands of Canadians that Bill C-11 opened the door to the regulation of user content, video games, and algorithms.

Up to this point, lobbyists have been getting pretty much everything they ask for. Of course, ACCORD is far from the only lobby group demanding that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms need not apply on the internet. ACTRA also called for the regulation of user generated content. They basically said that if you make sufficient money, then you should be heavily regulated like broadcasters. The call would put a ceiling for how successful Canadians can be before being regulated to death by the CRTC as they would have a significant regulatory boat anchor on their hands once they reach that threshold.

That regulatory anchor means that only the traditional corporations have a hope of surviving in the internet environment. This while companies from other countries are able to carry on with business as usual.

While there are different flavours of this, the end goal is the same: no one should be permitted to make money on the internet unless they are under existing traditional corporate umbrellas. Putting yourself under this umbrella subjects yourself to demands to adhere to whatever “standards” are being demanded – the same standards that have been causing the collapse of traditional industries in the first place.

All of this circles back to the unconstitutional nature of the Online Streaming Act in the first place. Anyone can upload content online. Anyone can post whatever they like. It doesn’t require use of highly expensive equipment or space on the spectrum like traditional media companies do. This is strictly re-defining speech as a broadcast and subjecting that “broadcast” to the heaviest of regulation needlessly.

If challenging this law is unsuccessful, the effect will be obvious. Once you reach a certain level of success, then creators need to move out of the country to become successful companies. This will lead to a massive innovation and creative brain drain on the Canadian economy. Canada’s pain could be other countries gains – whether it is the US or Europe or wherever else.

Fortunately, the consultation process is years away from completion. The process isn’t expected to complete until late 2024 at its soonest and 2025 at its latest. So, there’s still time to enjoy freedom of speech on streaming platforms. Probably the best advice is to enjoy it while it lasts because the government is eventually going to come in and ruin everything.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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