No Canadian Media, TikTok is Open About Their Opposition to Bill C-11

The media has been trying to tell Canadians that TikTok is secretive and manipulative in their opposition towards Bill C-11. The opposite is true.

Earlier, we reported on an attempted hit piece on TikTok. In it, the article tried to re-write history on the debate on Bill C-11. This includes the idea that it wasn’t the media that is doing the lobbying, but rather, “big tech”. Another aspect in the hit piece is the attempted attack on Digital First Canada where they tried to sell the story that “Big Tech” is heavily influencing the debate by secretively funding the organization. This despite actual comments that openly state that, yes, they did get initial seed money from TikTok. What’s more is that the hit piece tried to sell a story that TikTok had a slide show trying to influence streamers into opposing the legislation with untrue talking points. This despite the fact that the slide presented really didn’t say anything wrong.

The reality is that Canadian digital first creators are rightfully worried that they may see their ad revenue tank because of onerous regulations proposed in Bill C-11. Other industries, such as the music industry, are also worried that they would wind up being collateral damage in all of this as they see their ability to market artists music become hamstrung in these regulations.

Of course, this isn’t stopping the media from continuing to keep selling the story that these voices don’t actually exist and that it’s just “Big Tech” not wanting to be regulated. In fact, The National Observer ran such a hit piece:

An outspoken critic of the Liberal government’s online streaming bill received funding from two of the biggest digital platforms in the world.

Scott Benzie, founder of Digital First Canada, told a parliamentary committee on Monday that his organization, which advocates for online creators, is partly funded by YouTube and TikTok.

The revelation prompted Liberal MP Chris Bittle, parliamentary secretary to Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, to accuse Benzie of having an “extreme conflict of interest.”

The MP said representing digital first creators while taking money from the platforms was “almost like starting a union and taking money from management.”

The attacks by the media are trying to do two things. For one, they are trying to pretend that “real” opposition to the legislation doesn’t actually exist. For another, they are trying to play up the big bad ‘Big Tech’ story by saying that it’s all one big manipulation that the large platforms are trying to cover up. Yes, large platforms have done things that are highly questionable, but informing their users of the threat of Bill C-11 isn’t one of them.

Of course, despite the media’s narrative, the reality is that TikTok is actually very open about their opposition to Bill C-11. As noted but Michael Geist, TikTok has released their submission to the committee about how they view Bill C-11. From their submission (PDF):

We all want to see Canadian creators thrive, whether digital-first, traditional, or a combination of the two. TikTok supports the objectives of Bill C-11, and agrees with its approach to user-generated content as described by Minister Rodriguez: that user generated content should not be regulated under the Broadcasting Act. However, in order to achieve that outcome, we urge the Committee to adopt a few limited technical amendments.

A) Section 4.2

Section 4.2, which creates the much debated “exception to the exception,” must either be removed or further narrowed in order to ensure digital creators are not captured by the Act. Many other groups and witnesses have already addressed this provision, and have raised concerning potential interpretations. Of particular concern to TikTok is that it does not differentiate between full-length and short clips of music and videos, or even amateur cover performances.

On TikTok, users can include short clips—typically no more than 30 seconds long—of popular music in the background of their videos. To illustrate how broadly Section 4.2 could be interpreted, take the example of a Canadian TikTok creator who posts a dance video using Ucluelet, BC, singer Jessia’s song, I’m Not Pretty. Even though it’s only a 30- second clip of the music, that video would still meet all criteria of Section 4.2:

1. The video/song is monetized: TikTok indirectly monetizes all videos on our platform by interspersing ads in a user’s feed. This video would be further monetized by the royalties that TikTok would pay to Jessia (or the track’s rightsholder) for use of the clip.

2. The song appears on a regulated platform: I’m Not Pretty is available on streaming platforms (like Spotify or Apple Music) and on the radio.

3. The song has a unique identifier code: I’m Not Pretty has multiple codes associated with it, including an ISRC for the performance and an ISWC for the underlying work.

B) Sections 9 & 10 (Discoverability)

While Bill C-11 does not give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) authority to regulate what content is posted by Canadians, Section 9.1(1)(e) would give the CRTC the power to regulate what content is “presented” to Canadians, which would have the effect of indirectly regulating creators and their content. This provision could allow the CRTC to require certain content—including but not limited to certified Canadian Content (CanCon)—to be promoted through TikTok’s algorithm, over what might otherwise have been recommended based on a user’s interests.

While Section 9.1(8) does restrict the CRTC from prescribing that platforms use a specific algorithm, it does not prohibit them from prescribing the outcomes that algorithm must achieve. As TikTok is primarily a recommendation platform, it is unclear how we could meaningfully comply with a discoverability requirement aside from modifying our algorithm to promote certified CanCon.

While on its face this may sound like a reasonable objective, when you consider what might qualify as either “Canadian” or “content,” and how such certification could be achieved, it raises concerns as to whether this would give an unfair advantage to well resourced and established media voices—and come at the expense of emerging digital creators, especially young people and those from equity-deserving groups.

All that is a nice sample of what TikTok has openly said to committee. What’s more is that everything wee see in these snippets is accurate from our perspective. This is definitely far removed from the secretive underhanded tactics that certain outlets are trying to say is going on in this debate.

One misconception throughout all of this that we’ll emphasize again is that there is somehow a way to separate the creators on the platform and the platforms themselves. No one on the government side or the media has ever been able to really explain this. All we’ve heard is that ‘platforms are in and users are out’ (to paraphrase the Heritage Minister). So, how exactly, in their mind, does this work? They can’t seem to explain it and we honestly don’t know how that is even possible.

To better illustrate this, open up the YouTube home page and ask yourself this: without the videos, thumbnails, and titles, what do you have left in the platform? A way to log in and out maybe. The YouTube logo. If you really want to stretch the criteria, maybe the odd advertisement here and there. Beyond that, there is nothing. What are you regulating on the platform if you well and truly believe the false narrative that user generated content is not going to be regulated? The bottom line is that the talking point makes no sense and never has made any sense.

At any rate, this submission puts a very large dent in the conspiracy theory that “Big Tech” is secretively trying to influence the debate. Never mind the many creators, digital rights experts, music industry representatives, and advocacy groups who all oppose this legislation. It truly is a conspiracy theory that face plants right out of the gate.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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