Senate Hearings on Bill C-11 – A Look at the Sixth Hearing (First Segment)

Our special coverage of Bill C-11 is continuing with the sixth hearing. This is the last one of the week.

We are continuing our wall-to-wall coverage of Canada’s social media censorship bill known as Bill C-11. Throughout our coverage, we brought you inside in the Senate chambers to offer a first hand account of what was said and brought in context of what was said as well.

Earlier, we covered the fifth hearing, but it got so incredibly bad, we had to split our coverage into two halves.

During the first half consisted of lobbyists from established broadcasters. During those hearings, we saw and heard testimony from various organizations that ultimately undercut their own arguments for the legislation. For instance, one organization said that they are unable to strike deals with big platforms, yet, in the same breath, boasted how they were able to strike deals with big platforms. This ultimately put into question the need for this whole bill in the first place.

There was also a push for “must carry” carriage rules where denying a request would bring the wrath of the CRTC. Essentially, these organizations are demanding that their content feature prominently on American streaming services whether they like it or not.

One lobbyist even went so far as to falsely claim that concerns about algorithms don’t really exist and talking about it is a waste of time. This despite these requirements being a huge problem within the legislation itself.

This was followed up by the second part of the hearing which we separately covered. During those hearings, establishment media and broadcasters claimed that they are the voices of visible minorities. At the same time, they were cheer leading this bill and openly supportive of cutting off cultural ties with Canadians. Further, they even threw in conspiracy theories that artists on social media are mere pawns of big platforms aiming to protect their bottom line and shouldn’t be trusted.

Ultimately, the messaging was that only they are the real voices of first nations, black communities, and other minorities within the country and any other voices on social media don’t really exist or are not “high quality” content that should be ignored. The hypocrisy was both shocking and infuriating given they are openly supporting policies that would ghettoize content not under their umbrella of organizations.

Of course, this coverage is a follow-up to the previous weeks hearings which you can check out below:

Hearing 1 – Privacy Commissioner and Global Affairs/Justice Department
Hearing 2 – Digital rights organizations and lobby groups (1)
Hearing 3 – Lobby groups (2) and platforms
Hearing 4 – Lobby groups (3) and lobby groups (4)

We now continue our coverage with the sixth hearing in these debates. This is the last one for this week. As always, while we do provide a summary of what was said and provide context, in terms of thoroughness of what was said, nothing will beat the original video and transcript. Having said that, you can follow along with us via the posted video.

Segment One Opening Remarks

Jeanette Patell of Canada Government Affairs and Public Policy YouTube opened her remarks. She spoke about how being open and inclusive is a big part of YouTube. Further, meeting the needs of individual users is part of what makes YouTube special. She notes that diversity of voices is part of the secret sauce that has catapulted Canadian creators to be such huge exporters of culture to the world.

As a result of the success of Canada’s creative ecosystem on YouTube, it contributed $1.1 billion to Canada’s GDP. However, Bill C-11 puts all of this at risk. Experts agree that the bill, as it stands, would surface content that the CRTC chooses rather than the content that Canadian users want to see. That hurts everyone that uses the platform. In the spring, tens of thousands of creators called on the government to fix Bill C-11. Sadly, their efforts were ignored.

What’s more, millions have not been invited to discuss the bill and many Canadians remain unaware that their online experience is about to change.

From there, she points out that CRTC Chair, Ian Scott, testified that Bill C-11 gives them the power to regulate user generated content. Sections 4.2 (1) and 4.2 (2) leaves the discretion of what is “in” entirely to the CRTC. Only very broad criteria are considered in advance such as whether anyone has generated revenue directly or indirectly from that content. That is effectively everything on YouTube.

Further, she cites CRTC Chair, Ian Scott, that Bill C-11 allows the CRTC to manipulate and produce required outcome of algorithms. Section 9.1 (1) (e) explicitly gives the government authority over what content is prioritized and how and where content is presented to Canadians. This hands the power to the CRTC to decide who wins and who loses.

Patell points out that this will backfire for the very creators the CRTC is seeking to support. Building and creating an audience is about connecting with the most fans who would love your content – whether they are in Canada or around the world.

She then asked if you have ever changed the channel on TV because you don’t like what content is being presented. This is an important signal to YouTube. Overpromoting content to audiences leads to audiences tuning out. Those signals train their systems to demote that content for their global users. Doing so would strike at the heart of creators success and their bottom lines.

She notes that these unintended consequences are not what the government had in mind with Bill C-11. She notes that the Minister has said that the content of creators online should not be subject to the Act and that algorithms are not in play. However, the CRTC sees considerably more legal authority in the text then the Minister intends.

She points out that the Senate can enact surgical amendments to make sure that what the Minister says lines up with the legal text. She says that we have an obligation to the users experience and to ensure that the next big artist can break through.

Two simple amendments can fix these problems. First, to narrow the language in Section 4.2 to only capture commercial music and tweaking the language to Section 9.1 (8) to limit the impacts to algorithms.

She says that she hopes that the Senate will recognize the unique and open nature of platforms like YouTube. A one size fits all approach could have negative impacts on so many.

(So, really compacting all the major points that need to be raised into the opening statement. This is probably necessary because we don’t know how much longer these hearings will last. So, it was definitely necessary to try and get it all in because, if it isn’t in the opening statement, then the issue risks getting overlooked later on. Everything was relevant and worth summarizing here.)

Steve de Eyre of Public Policy and Government Affairs, Canada TikTok then opened with his statement. He points out that TikTok has levelled the playing field by democratizing discoverability. Anyone can reach an audience on their platform and that audience can be found around the world regardless of what they look like, sound like, or what content they create. He says that they are incredibly proud of Canada’s indigenous communities building audiences of hundreds of millions around the world. He cites several examples of this.

From there, he points out their concern about Bill C-11 and how it could hurt those already creating content and those just getting started. The bill could burden independent creators with massive regulations and tilt things in favour of established broadcasters instead. He points out that everyone wants creators to succeed, but Bill C-11 was not written to benefit digital creators.

Since Section 4.2 from the original Bill C-10 was stripped out of the bill a year and a half ago, almost the entire debate surrounds whether independent creators are excluded from the bill or not. Bill C-11 doesn’t just fail to protect digital creators, but also makes them collateral damage. He points out how important it is for the Senate to have a sober second thought and carefully consider the impact it will have on digital first creators.

He then recommends that short clip videos or amateur video’s not be considered “professional” content under Section 4.2. An content with music in it would meet all three conditions to be considered “professional” material – something that makes up a vast majority of content on TikTok. The legislation does not distinguish a full length song and a 15 second clip in the background of a video. He says that they have proposed a narrow exception to fix this problem.

The second issue he cites is the requirements to manipulate algorithms because he is concerned about how such a huge number of video’s created by Canadians would even qualify as “Cancon”. TikTok allows creators to post content – particularly niche or untraditional content. Some of the most successful creators on TikTok are vloggers, e-gamers, and Do It Yourselfers. He asked whether these creators, many of whom are young and not established, be subordinate to legacy publishers that can check the right boxes with the CRTC.

From there, he called for the re-insertion of critical protections for user generated content. He cites a study that says that 44% of Canadians discover new Canadian content on TikTok vs just 32% on traditional media like TV and radio. When it came to indigenous content, 41% discovered new artists on TikTok vs just 27% on traditional media.

He then asked what the goal of Bill C-11 is. He says if that is the case, then they support this goal. However, applying the Broadcasting Act to user generated content will not achieve this goal. He comments that in a global environment, Bill C-11 only stands to hurt digital first creators.

(This really builds on the comments from YouTube. It really adds that down to earth perspective of what could happen to creators should Bill C-11 pass as-is. What’s more, it really counters many of the claims that platforms have no interest in promoting Canadian or minority voices in Canada. What’s more is that it showcases the power platforms have given creators to create and expand on whatever they want to create rather than confining themselves to very specific moulds demanded by legacy corporations.)

Patrick Rogers of Music Canada then opened with his remarks. He comments that the major record labels help Canadian artists achieve success domestically and abroad. He says that he supports the core goal of Bill C-11 of showcasing Canadian content in a digital environment.

From there, he points out that the major record labels are responsible for some of the most recognizable names of today. He then notes that there are many other artists that are making it on platforms that Senators may not have heard of yet. In fact, he cites a rather sizable list of artists. He points out that their success is the result of hard work, investments from their labels, and the reach of streaming platforms who license their music and deliver it to fans around the world.

From there, he points out that regulations need to reflect the differences between the digital marketplace and traditional radio. He calls for legislation that supports the continued success of creators reaching audiences around the world and that the listening experience of users is maintained. If that experience is disrupted, the music industry knows that listeners will go elsewhere. Those places will likely be unlicensed and unregulated. This flies in the face of everything this bill aims to achieve. He expressed hope that amendments will bridge the gap between what the Minister says is in the bill and the text of the bill itself.

After that, he echo’s the calls to protect the algorithms from manipulation and that user generated content not be regulated. He then re-iterates the calls made.

Questioning the Witnesses

Senator Leo Housakos began questions by asking to explain the amendments put forward, why the amendments are needed, and what the consequences of not implementing such amendments.

Patell responded by explaining that the amendments would codify what the minister says is in the bill in the legal text of the bill. The amendments would include commercial music content while excluding user generated content and the content of online digital first creators. This would create clarity for regulators and stakeholders involved. She used the example of a professional song being uploaded to YouTube where it would the subject to regulation, but if a video was uploaded of Senators participating in a dance challenge would not be subject to the same regulations.

From there, she spoke about the consequences of those amendments not being implemented and the bill being passed as-is. Fundamentally, she says, it will be harder for creators to break through and it will be harder for them to grow audiences at scale. She says that it would be a shame of the most vibrant creative sector were to become collateral damage in this bill.

Senator Housakos noted that the directives for the CRTC to administer the bill hasn’t been released and no one has seen them yet. He further asked about how YouTube can track Canadian content when 500 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every (he wasn’t sure on the increment, but the statistic known is every minute) and what the privacy implications of tracking such data would be and the issues that crop up in all of this.

Patell responded that YouTube does not ask about nationality or residency when users upload onto their site. In order to comply with discoverability as envisioned now in the bill, they would need to construct such a mechanism to gather that personal information of individuals. The burden of that would fall to creators because only they know the information about the production of that content that they are uploading. This fundamentally tilts things in favour of companies that have entire teams who know how to navigate the Canadian certification program.

Senator Marty Klyne notes that the deliberations of algorithms are still quite topical. He asked for further elaboration on algorithms. He further asked about the collection of data for user generated content and the privacy implications of such data collection.

Patell responded that with respect to Section 9.1 1 (e) – unfortunately, she has memorized this bill (room laughs). She says that the section imposes conditions on algorithms and the presentation of content to users including the selection of content for users in French language programs, but not limited to. What content is surfaced, how that content is given to users, etc. would be directed by the CRTC whereas today, the users are training their systems on how to best serve them.

She notes that when they look at the discretion of the CRTC in regards to 500 hours of content uploaded every minute, they are concerned about the vast expanse of content that could be subject to the act.

With respect to privacy, she says that they have systems in place to protect the privacy of users, but the concern is about how the vast majority of Canadians could collect that information that would flow down to them because that would be how YouTube would gather that information.

Senator Klyne then asked how they would eliminate those discretion’s and get more specifics on users.

Patell responded that they would look at Section 4.2 and establish legal thresholds. They are open to establishing a clear legal test and they would be happy to provide a proposal to the Senate on that front.

Senator Fabian Manning noted that the government has refused to release an implementation policy for the CRTC to follow until the bill receives royal assent. He asked if either witnesses feel that it would be beneficial to have that policy directive released prior to the bill receiving royal assent. Additionally, does the failure to release the policy directive contribute to the uncertainty about how the government proposes to regulate the internet.

de Eyre responded, saying that this would be helpful. The problem that he’s heard from creators is the problem for that policy to be interpreted over time. For example, if there is a change in leadership at the CRTC or even a change in government. He noted that this is their livelihood to distribute their content through TikTok and other platforms. They maintain their IP and use TikTok to reach a global audience of a billion people. Without that certainty, there could be a risk. While it would be helpful, it would be better to see more guard rails put in place to give that security.

Rogers chimed in, agreeing with the points and adding that YouTube is different from TikTok which is different from a platform that doesn’t exist yet. Their artist depend on the uniqueness of those platforms. So, they hope that will be covered going forward.

Senator Manning then notes that broadcasters face significant penalties if they violate the Broadcasting Act. He then asked about platforms and the imposition of paperwork requirements on creators and the impact that would have on creators.

Patell responded, saying that the penalties are indeed quite high. So, there will be an incentive to get a high fidelity of the information. The only way for the platform to get that information is to request that users give that information when uploading that content. So, she foresees quite an impact for those creators.

Rogers commented that people worry about the pointy end of popularity in music. If there is a risk of getting that information wrong, then there will be an incentive for the same artist and same music to be played over and over because they know that information is right. At that point, they would find themselves in the situation everyone is familiar with in broadcast radio. That doesn’t exist online and that is the risk that this could introduce that.

Patell responded to a question (was inaudible to me) saying that the way to remedy the anxiety around the legislation is to rectify the legal text. She says that this is achievable and that the senate is capable of doing so.

Senator Miville-Dechene said that she is surprised that the platforms cannot find and identify Canadian artists because YouTube promotes Canadian artists. So, she (YouTube) is bragging about meeting obligations long before the legislation has been put in place. If they are able to do that, why is YouTube worried? She says that nothing in the legislation talks about algorithms (algorithms is mentioned in the bill).

Based on the bill, it’s about results and YouTube has already said that they are already promoting Canadian content. So, they would only have to provide the numbers to support that without touching their algorithms. They have other ways of promoting that content. So, there is a paradox that they can promote Canadian content. (Well, it would help if the question was based on accurate assessments of the bill for one.)

Patell responded that it’s very important to ground ourselves in the legal text. She then cites the section of the bill that specifically mentioned algorithms and points out that while a specific source code can’t be handed to the platform, but there is sufficient wiggle room to demand manipulation of the algorithm to get a specific result. So, she is claling for greater precision.

Senator Miville-Dechene then denied what was written in the text by saying “it’s not written”. She says that nothing in the law says that they would have to choose the means to make Canadian content discoverable. The platform can choose those means, so why are they afraid? (Basically, she denied and admitted that the bill requires algorithm manipulation in the span of a couple of seconds.)

Patell responded that their focus is on the success of creators and artists around the world. She says that they are proud of being able to build this incredible ecosystem of Canadian creators of every background to reach audiences and build businesses. So, what is being called for is specific legal language that not only can the CRTC not order a specific algorithm, but also changes to those algorithms. That way, the user experience can be protected.

Senator Miville-Dechene responded ‘so very little’. She says that she is astounded that she is describing the algorithms as completely untouchable. It is described as a secret cause, but it is still a commercial tool that allows them to make profits. So, YouTube also has the power to change their algorithms. She says she can’t understand why they are so sacred that they can’t be changed to promote Canadian content, Francophone content, and indigenous content. (not really. It’s called “government intervention” in a user choice driven experience.)

Patell says it’s all in the name. YouTube is about you. Users train their systems and the systems rely on users to serve their needs. So, when Canadians go on YouTube and look for indigenous content to users, they absolutely want to serve that to them. The problem is that if they are solving for something that is not in the user interest such as a CRTC imposed priority, then fundamentally, the system breaks and you start to have the corruption of the signals where it ultimately backfires for those creators.

She says that they believe in helping and supporting Canadian creators including having a revenue sharing program. That way, their success if contingent on the success of creators.

Senator Paula Simons cites Section 4.2 (2). She says that she is looking at their amendments and they are finely detailed to deal with the issue of a unique identifier. However, the crux of the issue seems to involved “the extent to which” when it comes to revenue. It seems to her that if there was greater clarity on that, then a determination can be made on what is considered professional and what isn’t. What can be done to fix this quagmire that the government insists that their platforms are not covered.

de Eyre responded saying that he agrees that this section is, indeed, problematic. He notes that TikTok makes money by interspersing ads that are on the platform. They are indirectly making money on the videos. They are paying royalties whenever a song is used in video’s. Creators will often create brand partnerships to sell merchandise or a line of makeup. So, those videos are monetized in that way too. So, he agrees that the language needs to be narrow and he’d be happy to offer suggestions as he agrees with others.

For TikTok, there is the centrality of music in the video’s posted, so they are proposing a narrowing of the language to point out that there is a difference between a narrow song and a full song.

Patell chimed in and said that she’d look a little above Section A and look for the word “consider”. That is a source of considerable discretion for the CRTC. YouTube is submitting proposed language to the Senate shortly. If the CRTC is trying to find commercial music, then the monetization element is not a very material way of going about that. They have a very different formula for how one identifies a commercial music uploader.

Senator Simons commented that she was told that 50% of the content on YouTube would fall into that category. She asked if that was a fair assessment.

Patell responded that all of the content on YouTube could be subject to this act.

Senator Simons responded saying that 50% of the content uploaded is the large commercial music.

Patell responded that music is only a portion of YouTube content. She doesn’t believe it is 50%. It would be a much smaller amount when you look at YouTube music. What she is proposing is amendments that ensured that commercial music will be captured while ensuring that all other content would not be captured.

(I agree that 50% of content uploaded to YouTube sounds way too high. When you have influencer content, vloggers, how to video’s, game footage, educational content, kids content, science video’s, building video’s, analysis videos like Poker analysis, memes, and who knows what else is on YouTube, I personally have a very hard time seeing how 50% of the content on YouTube is just commercial music. In fact, I don’t think DJ mixes would even count in that area either.)

Senator Rene Cormier noted a statistic suggests that 80% of content viewed comes from recommendations. YouTube has the percentage time view time from recommendations. Since he’s visited YouTube, what is stopping YouTube from recommending French music or Francophone music. If he’s listening to a French song (I’m not attempting to spell that artist name because I know I’ll probably get it wrong), there should be recommendations similar to that artist. It’s great music, so why aren’t those songs prioritized? (YouTube can’t read your mind.)

Patell responded that in terms of recommendations, she doesn’t have the numbers for just Canada. In terms of artists, they (YouTube) are proud of the French and Francophone artists on the platform and how the platform has been able to give them exposure to global audiences. Recommendations are built to find artists that users would like. When users use YouTube, they are inputting content of what they would enjoy in their language.

So, the user has to interact with the user and it is a responsive system rather than a directive system. If you go on YouTube and listen to a lot of a particular artist, it will learn over time to recommend that content. Fundamentally, she says, the systems are designed to serve the user first. It is the user that is in the drivers seat of that experience. As users listen to that content, they are ensuring that the content is reaching the largest possible audiences.

Senator Cormier said that he is listening to a francophone artist, but after a while, he is getting anglophone artists. It is you yourself deciding that recommendation. He says he can’t understand why you can’t continue with the same type of music. If he is listening to (French artist example), why not more music in a similar style? Why not a similar recommendation? The platform is not neutral. (YouTube is not an all knowing god of all knowledge and content. You can pretend that they have omnipotent power all you want, it’s not going to happen.)

Patell responded that this is probably a reflection of your viewing habits as well as the viewing habits of all the other users like you. The system is trying to learn how to surface content that you would enjoy. So, by training their systems more, it will recommend more content in line with his tastes. That is the best way to get those additional recommendations.

Senator Karen Sorensen asked if Music Canada believes that Bill C-11 will impact creators abilities to find global audiences? If so, where is the most important language to amend to prevent that.

Rogers responded saying that you have two platforms being represented and his members ultimately represents content. He is ultimately worried about the reach for their artists because the platforms are worried about creators reaching a global audience. His position is that the senate should listen to that carefully.

He then turned towards the algorithm aspect. He urged senators to not lose sight of the magic of platforms being able to recommend another song that you would love after you listened to a song that you love. That is what they are selling. That is the sort of thing that is helping their artists every day. He says that he knows that everyone has their own ways and if they had the engineering skills, everyone will want to fiddle with the recommendations. However, he would ask Senators to take them at face value.

de Eyre commented that he does believe this would have an impact on creators finding a global audience, particularly in Section 9.1 where they would be required to promote Canadian content. They would not know who would qualify as Canadian or not. How would they know? They really only have an IP address. That provides very rough high level location data.

They don’t know citizenship and they don’t know what kind of content is going to apply. If that content doesn’t meet that criteria, then they go to the back of the line. So, established traditional broadcasters will have the resources to meet those requirements and will be at the front of the line.

Patell added that this is a global precedent. No other country in the world applies these requirements on open platforms. The EU has the Audiovisual an Media Services Act that only applies to closed platforms. There is nothing like this for open platforms.

It really puts the international audience at risk because if France or India was to do something like this where they would have requirements for their artists, then Canadians will be going to the back of the line. That is hugely damaging for creators that depend on these audiences for 90% of their watch time and that will have an impact on their revenues. That is a huge source of cultural exports that they want to continue to help grow.

Senator Sorensen asked if they believe that platforms should make a financial contribution to the cultural sector.

Patell responded that yes, they are happy to and will continue to do more.

de Eyre responded with yes and that have an indigenous creator program and they will be happy to continue to contribute.

Rogers also said yes.

Senator Pamela Wallin asked about how granular can the revenue get. Someone might get their content reposted, how is that money generated as it might only be 5 cents.

Patell responded, saying that she doesn’t believe that this is a helpful provision at all. All it does is create different classes of creators. The best part about their platform is that everyone has a shot. When people come to their platform to share their voices and to share their stories and be heard, their content is treated equally. Her suggestion is to not use that language (in the bill) and, instead, find other ways to identify if the content in question is full length commercial music.

de Eyre chimed in saying that they are concerned that they are also creating the wrong incentive as well. If you say that if you start making money, then it is a regulated activity. They want their creators to thrive and get those brand partnerships to make money on their platforms and make money off their platforms with their notorieties. They are concerned with the precedent of the incentive.

Senator Wallin commented that the question was asked because the CRTC chair said that he won’t regulate the internet, but instead, make the platforms do it for them. Without a clear cut definition of what Cancon is, this is going to be a very difficult definition to come to because it’s not just about being born and raised.

de Eyre responded that he would love to give an example about the difficulty in this is. There is a TikTok creator in Regina Saskatchewan who is a 19 year old Ukranian who came to Canada in May. He creates amazing content and has over 1.2 million views and has 170,000 followers. What he does is he explores Canada. There was one video of him trying nanaimo bars for the first time (You’re welcome for finding it). The problem is, is he Canadian because he is in Canada? They don’t know and that is going to be very hard to determine.

Senator Wallin then said that she has many questions still, but wanted to touch on the appeals process. If a platform were to be fined by the CRTC for not displaying Canadian content correctly, then the appeals process for the CRTC is to appeal to the CRTC about the CRTC. The CRTC then decides whether the platform has contravened a CRTC ruling. Is that reasonable?

de Eyre responded that they are concerned about being able to apply for Canadian content. A lot of TikTok creators are young and may not have the resources, the knowledge or the time to approach this let alone applying for it and appealing it. They are really worried about the equity there.

Rogers chimed in saying that there are separate rules for Canadian music and the system in place now is not a fool proof system.

Senator Donna Dasko said that lets assume that the bill is passed without the changes that they are asking for. A year from now, they are in front of the CRTC chair and asks what is their proposal for rules on discoverability. What is their proposal for discoverability? How are they going to find Canadian content? Further, how are they going to identify target audiences?

de Eyre responded that this strikes at the heart of what they are saying. For years, you have this system for radio and television where you have a certain percentage of Canadian content, while great, has a certain repetitiveness to it. In a world where you have unlimited choice and on demand content where you can listen or watch to whatever you want, he doesn’t believe you can achieve success by forcing demand. This is because, as has been already said, people will go elsewhere if it’s not what they want to watch or listen to it.

Instead, he says, he wants to turn this on its head. Instead of focusing on the demand, focus on the supply. Invest in creators and make sure they have the resources and training and skills and equipment and everything they need so they can create the best content that will succeed in a global content marketplace.

Canadians have a huge opportunity. They punch way above their weight for cultural content. They have this huge opportunity with a billion global audience. Let’s help them make that content that will allow them to compete with anyone anywhere.

Patell chimed in saying that they are focused on first serving the individual users needs when they come to their platforms. After we preserve that, when they look at how do we support Canadian artists, they are focused on growing the pipeline and growing the pie. They want there to be more to go around on how artists succeed on their platform. Looking at tools that are non-algorithmic to help with the music industry, that is something that we need to work in collaboration with of what are the tools that strike the right balance of helping artists to succeed in the digital world? This while respecting individual users and Canadians when they come to their platform.

Senator Dasko asked that how will that look then? Do they have non-algorithmic ideas to propose or ways to identify Canadian content?

de Eyre responded that he would explain to the commissioner why they don’t think this is the right approach to force content.

Senator Dasko responded that it’s too late to say it’s the wrong approach.

de Eyre responded that it’s about discoverability. You can help Canadian’s be discoverable by making great content. That’s the way it’s going to work. They have programs that put indigenous creators through classes on how to use the equipment, engaging with audiences, writing the stories, and how to monetize. Giving them those skills will result in the policy outcome that everyone wants for creators to be thriving and to be discovered globally.

Senator Bernadette Clement commented, saying that, full disclosure, she is a 57 year old TikTok creator, so they are not all young. She said that the old legislation has not been a disaster. They have beautiful Canadian content that has allowed people to speak ti their Canadian identity – repetitive as it may have seemed at times. The CRTC, while not perfect, has managed to keep things going, so some stakeholders have told them that it has not been a total disaster (not sure who said it was for traditional mediums).

She then asked why they should trust YouTube’s algorithms will be fair to Canadians and that there won’t be this disproportionate flooding of other content. she asked TikTok what proportion of content that is posted is user generated content. If it’s all user generated content, other than getting platforms to pay into a fund, how are they ever going to get the platforms online? Further, algorithms are not democratic if people don’t know how algorithms work? Canadians need to know that. (Problem with that is those who have an interest in gaming the system – as nice as it would be to know how the algorithms tick.)

Patell responded that trust is so fundamental to their success. When asking about how you can trust YouTube to ensure Canadian content gets out there, you have to trust Canadians. They trust Canadians with the content they want to engage with. Everyone is going to have a different set of content needs. They want to trust and respect those needs for every individual at the same high level. That is how they are designing their system.

In terms of transparency, they are very committed to transparency and to share more information. They have a Summer program where they invite researchers to engage with their raw data and to do more research on the YouTube API so they can learn from it and derive insights into that. That is something they have launched this Summer and they will be looking to grow.

Rogers chimed in saying that they are supporters of the bill because the system worked when it came to radio and how it built a music industry. Having said that, solutions that worked for terrestrial radio are not the solutions for infinite play. That is why they are so interested in platforms explain how those systems work and how best to go about it.

His two year old is a great example of how this works. She goes on Spotify and likes one artist. The platform recommends other songs and that is her world. The platform can then recommend other artists that she could enjoy and she enjoys that music too. That is her world suddenly expanding. He encourages senators to think of it that way.

de Eyre responded by answering the question about what portion of content on TikTok is user generated content, he said almost all of it. There is an asterisk in that they will occasionally do editorial content. They may pay an artist to do a live stream. If that is the activities they want to regulate, then they say go ahead and regulate it. He says that he’d argue that all of that content is considered Cancon.

As for algorithm transparency, they have a blog post on it and they are continuing to be more and more transparent. They are preparing to open a transparency and accountability centre. There’s two in the US opening, but they are hoping to open one in Canada as well. Still, it is a place where lawmakers and civil society and researchers can come in and see the source code and can watch a live content moderation session and can speak to security professionals. So, they would love to have that committee take a field trip to LA as they would love to host them there (not entirely sure why Senators laughed at that, but they did).

Further, they are working to open up their API for eligible researchers so they can access the data as well as the content moderation system.

From there, the hearing was adjourned.

Concluding Thoughts

So, wow, that was such a huge amount of ground covered. The chair did note that they went way over time, so it was definitely quite the marathon of stuff to go over.

One thing I did notice is that some of the Senators who are obviously huge supporters of the bill seemed to just refuse to even begin to understand how this whole internet thing works. An example is the one senator who kept badgering the witnesses on why a specific song even he is not even aware of is not recommended. I think senators who clearly don’t understand how this all works are basically expecting miracles. While YouTube and other platforms are very good about recommending content, they are far from perfect.

I think what some senators are mistakenly believing is that the system is specifically tuned to work against Canadian content because it doesn’t recommend specific songs that they are expecting. It’s not even remotely close to say that the system is built to be against Canadian creators and the platforms were very right to point out that it’s about getting more content into the system for better recommendations.

An example is what I experienced on YouTube. I look at numerous video’s that feature different kinds of electronic music. Whether it is progressive trance, drum n bass, synth-pop, house, gabber hardcore, hardstyle, psychedelic trance, downtempo, electro swing, etc. I’m constantly, researching music for the Wiki and music reviews on this site.

I almost never use the recommendations. Most of the time, the music isn’t really close to the overall sound and it seems based on, at best, being of the same genre. I’ve experimented around with the recommendations and, occasionally, it finds something that has a resemblance, but it’s really bad at determining what I would be interested in because it is based on what others like, not what is actually similar.

Ultimately, the problem I run into is that recommendations invariably lead me to three artists: Deadmau5, Pendulum, and Knife Party. My response to that is that there is FAR far more choices for music that involves synthetic sounds than those three artists. For as good it is to base a system on what users enjoy, it is, at best, very touch and go in terms of recommending similar music. So, the YouTube example is far from unique when it comes to finding French Canadian or Francophone music.

The thing is, I don’t expect the recommendation system to be particularly good in this area either. Just look at the first ever YouTube video. It’s just a guy at a zoo talking about elephants for 19 seconds. When YouTube was just starting up, the intent was clearly to make a platform for vlogging (video blogging). Just people recording their experiences and posting them onto a platform to share with a wider audience. That element of YouTube has carried on to this day.

So, when you think about YouTube basing their recommendations on what people like, such a system makes a significant amount of sense. People who vlog about their travels might have an audience that is interested in travelling. People who talk about technology recommendations might have an audience interested in others talking about similar topics. Everything about YouTube, in that regard, makes perfect sense.

The thing is, as the platform grew more popular, other forms of content got posted. Thanks to the open nature of the platform, that content was taken in easily. The problem is that a recommendation for vlogging might not be as great of a fit for music uploaded to the platform.

Music specifically involves considerable amount of nuance that is far from perfect. What’s more, people can’t really decide on defining music genre’s. What might be hip hop for one section of the audience might be considered pop music for another part of the audience. What might be considered electro house for some might be considered (shuddering) EDM for others. Throw in music that adopts multiple styles and mixes it down into their own style and you have a dogs breakfast of classifying music. If the whole of human knowledge can’t rigidly define kinds of music, what hope does any algorithm have, let alone one based on what people enjoy?

Compounding the problem, of course, is scale. The senator mentioned a particular French artist and asked what is so difficult to adding in other similar songs in the recommendation that is strictly French? The problem is that the senator is looking at a single instance and a single example. Technically, putting in specific recommendations wouldn’t be very hard for that specific result. However, that is not really the problem.

The problem involves every possible result that the user asks for. So, if the user looks up every single song that was uploaded by a particular artist, then the algorithm is charged with finding that granular level recommendations for every single result. That, of course, is a much taller order. Then you move back a little and look at other artists that may well and truly have a similar sound and of the same language. Now, you are looking for that level of granular recommendation for every single one of those songs as well.

Then, you move back and say, “OK, what about other styles of music in that language. What about all those artists?” That only multiplies, if not, increases the ask by an order of magnitude. Then you ask about music in that language in other styles of music. That bumps up the ask by another order of magnitude. Then you throw in English and this bumps up the order of magnitude up by another level or two. Next, throw in artists in every language and you bump that ask up by another order or two in magnitude. Now, add in every style and it increases another order of magnitude or more.

So, already, we are treading into the territory of an impossible ask. This isn’t even getting into channels that deal in everything else. Whether it is cooking, video games, building PCs, movie clips, analysis on movies, science video’s, haul video’s, meme video’s, vlogging in general, educational videos, and a whole bunch of other kinds of video’s. At that point, you are asking for that granular level of recommendations for every aspect of recorded human expression. That isn’t even touching the statistic of 500 hours of video content being upload every minute onto YouTube which just turns the knife on such an ask even more.

For as much resources and as much effort that was put into YouTube’s algorithm system, to this day, asking for that level of specificity and accuracy is an impossible ask. YouTube can certainly try to make the system easier, but there is really only so much you can ask out of YouTube at that point. It’s also why content moderation on YouTube is so impossible. It’s physically impossible for a human being to watch through all that content which is why algorithms is the only real way to go at that point.

It is for these reasons (and more) why the platforms are insisting that changing the algorithms is a no go in the first place. For as imperfect as basing recommendations on what people like is, it is still much better than the government intervening and saying, “recommend X or Y content” because that intervention will only make the system worse (hence the corruption of the signals). Even with the best intentions, you are not helping things. It’s not some “sacred” untouchable thing that cannot be touched or platforms just being in it to “protect the bottom line”, they genuinely know this is going to throw a huge wrench into the machine and everyone is going to be hurt by it.

For those who might read this and say, “OK, you are just trying to make up excuses to protect the platforms”, then I say to those people: build a better system, then. It doesn’t have to be a complex website with algorithms and fancy hosting systems. It can be as simple as a giant flow chart. Pull up whatever office software you are comfortable with and build a network of songs to recommend that involves every genre, every language, and every taste. I am convinced that unless your musical knowledge is highly limited, you will find that such a project gets out of hand very very quickly.

All of this, of course, doesn’t even get into determining whether certain content is Canadian enough or not. Platforms have a very good reason to keep their system as equal opportunity as possible. If some unknown creator makes it big, both the creator and the platform benefit. So, being inclusive is critical. Trying to bury creators in paperwork is, like the platforms say, only going to favour the established players who know how to work the system. By demanding this, you inevitably create biases in the system that limits the success of everyone involved.

Personally, I don’t expect the senators who are hardcore supporters of Bill C-11 and demanding it get passed as-is without amendment are ever really going to understand this. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are being paid to not understand this. The point is showcasing that the platforms are actually being straight when they said that messing with the algorithms and introducing discoverability requirements is going to hurt everyone involved. For as much flack as large platforms get from other issues, my analysis can only conclude that there is very little you can criticize the platforms over with this experience.

In fact, I was genuinely surprised when the platforms represented here said they had no problem making payments to content creation funds. In my view, it would be a reasonable stance to say that such funds do not benefit the wider creator community and they would be more in favour of putting the money into a fund that is much more inclusive and not seemingly destined to traditional players in the broadcasting sector. By agreeing to this, I’d say they are, for the time being, being very selfless here.

The platforms also echoed a lot of the critical warnings such as what would happen if other countries enacted similar bills in their respective countries. That is a very real threat. The fact that it got so little to no reaction from senators has me worried that such warnings are invariably going to fall on deaf ears. It’s not a hard concept to really understand and the fact that there is so much indifference to such warnings is becoming increasingly telling as to where things are heading in these hearings.

There’s so much additional ground I could cover, but this analysis and overview is already FAR to large as it is. Hopefully, though, you are able to glean some insight into this section of the hearing even if it is far from complete.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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