The Conspiracy Theory That Creators Are Paid Google Actors to Stop Bill C-11 Never Added Up

An off again on again conspiracy theory is that digital content creators are just paid actors for Google to stop Bill C-11. It never added up.

Throughout the Bill C-11 debate, one of the conspiracy theories we’ve heard off and on again is that digital content creators are merely paid actors working on behalf of Google to deep six Bill C-11. It’s a completely and utterly nonsensical argument that really doesn’t hold up to even the most basic level of logic or reason.

In fact, the debate got so bad, even we have been accused of being a paid shill for Google. So, we’ll get this silly notion out of the way first in pointing out that we aren’t, by any means, being funded or influenced by Google to say or write things. Like the many digital content creators, we write our own stuff based on our own observations and research. In fact, if we were actually paid by Google (and Adsense revenues pays pennies for thousands of views these days), what do you think we’d do with such money?

Let’s assume, hypothetically, that we were being paid $500 per month by Google (which would be an incredibly small sum of money for something like that, but we’ll go with that anyway) in an evil plot to sink the chances of Bill C-11. We’ve been writing about Bill C-11 since before it was first tabled as Bill C-10. One of our early articles about this legislation was from April of 2021. That means 8 months of 2021, an additional 12 months in 2022, and, of course, this year which would be 4 months. So, that works out to 48 months of shilling for Google which would mean, at the $500 rate, we should have raked in $24,000 by now.

With that kind of money, we would have easily had enough to pay for a brand new site design, paid a team of marketers to promote the site on social media, gotten some contractors to help write our content, gotten a full SEO audit and adjust the content to be more search engine friendly, easily afforded the latest games and consoles rather than rely on used previous gen consoles and used games, paid for a brand new creative suite including video editing software, and even bought all new computer hardware with all the latest bells and whistles. In short, this would be a very different site with very different content then what you are seeing today by now.

Money aside, we would make a horrible shill for Google. Why would we have, in the same time period, report on Project Bernanke or rail against ContentID while talking about Bill C-11? If our job was to shill for Google, we really really really suck at our job. Simply put, someone paid to promote Google’s position would never in a million years bring up either issue. At the end of the day, we are, indisputably, independently run and independently minded when talking about the issues we discuss.

So, now that we’ve shown why there isn’t a case on this site, let’s look at the other digital content creators. We know that, for years, the talking point for Bill C-11 is to make Google and Facebook pay their fair share. What some do is pair that with the idea that all these content creators are just paid by Google to sink Bill C-11.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen an angle on the conspiracy theory that the only reason why otherwise non-political content creators are suddenly becoming political, so that just means that they are on the take in all of this. The reality in all of this is that content creators are suddenly seeing a bill that could significantly harm their livelihoods because their content is likely going to be downranked. In response, they are fighting against a new threat to how they generate income and put food on the table. That is why otherwise non-political creators are suddenly becoming political. It’s because there is a new threat to them.

Yet, for the conspiracy theorist, that likely won’t be how they see it. So, donning the tin foil hat, they insist that they are paid by Google to sink Bill C-11. Why? Allegedly, because Google doesn’t want to pay their fair share and are getting these paid actors to stop Bill C-11 so they don’t have to pay, er, creatives for the hard work that they do. I know, it’s completely nuts, but we’re diving deep into the illogical and crazy here.

So, what have content creators been attacking in all of this? Section 4.2. Section 4.2 in Bill C-11 deals with how content is promoted. Digital content creators rightfully point out that by promoting government certified Canadian content, you are downranking their own content. So, what does the ranking of different content have to do with Google paying creatives for the work that they do? Pretty much nothing.

Stretching and straining the argument, at best, the ranking will negatively impact user interest in the site and make fewer Canadians want to view content on YouTube. Even then, Canada is a small market compared to, say, the United States. So, a tiny impact in a tiny market would struggle to register as a financial footnote for Google’s internal finances. Obviously, the conspiracy theorists would insist that the government certified content is great (LOL!) and wouldn’t have that impact, so even the conspiracy theorists wouldn’t go down that road in the first place.

Where things really fly off the rails is when you analyze the behaviour of digital content creators after Section 4.2 got fixed in the Senate. Creators were absolutely thrilled and, by and large, said that their concerns were heard and that the biggest core problems of the bill were fixed. Again, what does that have to do with Google paying creatives for their work? Heck if we can figure that one out. Why would digital content creators celebrate and largely declare victory if it was Google paying them to attack Bill C-11 so they don’t have to pay their fair share? That makes zero sense.

So, the logic basically went nowhere on that front, let’s look at another angle.

Let’s start back at the beginning and try to insist that all of these digital content creators are actors paid by Google. They are decrying Bill C-11. If this was a fake campaign to scaremonger Canadian’s, then the concerns should, by and large, lead nowhere. So, the logical question can be asked, what part of Bill C-11 would hurt their chances of success? The answer is Section 4.2. What does Section 4.2 say? This:

(2) In making regulations under subsection (1), the Commission shall consider the following matters:
(a) the extent to which a program, uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service, directly or indirectly generates revenues;
(b) the fact that such a program has been broadcast, in whole or in part, by a broadcasting undertaking that
(i) is required to be carried on under a licence, or
(ii) is required to be registered with the Commission but does not provide a social media service; and
(c) the fact that such a program has been assigned a unique identifier under an international standards system.
(3) The regulations shall not prescribe a program
(a) in respect of which neither the user of a social media service who uploads the program nor the owner or licensee of copyright in the program receives revenues; or
(b) that consists only of visual images.

That’s… pretty definitively impacting their work. They say that their content will be affected because it will get downranked. Each part is something that the CRTC considers, meaning that they do not have to have all three parts in order to be regulated. For greater clarity, the bill defines “The Commission” as the CRTC. If what the digital content creators are doing is pushing a fake campaign that isn’t based on anything, that is pretty freaking convincing to me.

Compounding things is the section regarding algorithms which reads as follows:

Restriction — computer algorithm or source code
(8) The Commission shall not make an order under paragraph (1)‍(e) that would require the use of a specific computer algorithm or source code.

This has been criticized because it opens the door for the CRTC to simply demand outcomes. The conspiracy theorists insist that it means that this means that the bill doesn’t touch algorithms and that critics have it all wrong. The problem is that the CRTC Chair, at the time, confirmed the thinking and that this was how the CRTC, the regulator itself that would carry out enforcement of Bill C-11, interprets it. This debate was over on June of 2022 and the critics were right. I mean, are you really going to disagree with the guy that chairs the CRTC on something like this? You… really can’t.

So, you have the text of the bill agreeing with the digital content creators assessment, the chair of the CRTC, the regulator that would be responsible for enforcing this, agreeing with the assessment, not to mention the pile of legal experts (re: Michael Geist, Dwayne Winseck, David Fraser, Vivek Krishnamurthy, etc.) who also agree with these assessment. Basically, you have to go to the extreme of honestly believing that all the legal experts, independent analysts, the CRTC, digital rights organizations, the text of the bill itself, and an entire federal political party are somehow all on the take in pushing this supposedly fake campaign. I mean, this is rising to the level of climate change denialism of tin foil hattery here.

In a last ditch effort, the conspiracy theorists will rely heavily on the point in time when Google sent a message to YouTuber’s that linked to a page called keep YouTube yours. The post was dated October 5, 2022. This is actually where the problems begin with the conspiracy theorists. This debate has been going on since early 2021, possibly even earlier. If Google was pushing this big conspiracy from the beginning, why on earth did it take a year and a half before speaking up about this? If anything, you’d think that Google would publicly be pushing back against this bill since the beginning.

The reality is that Bill C-11 critics were wondering why Google was taking so long to respond to this forthcoming bill. Additionally, the campaign, which was more like a notification, was basically letting Canadian creators know that there is a bill coming up that may be worrying for them. So, something to consider.

Conspiracy theorists, however, latch onto this idea that this notice was proof that Google is partaking in this grand conspiracy to try and avoid paying their fair share. This repeats the cycle that you see above where all the conspiracy theories and angles quickly collapse.

At this point, we pretty much exhausted every angle to try and make any semblance of logic to work for the conspiracy theorists. Yet, when you look at the evidence, the behaviour, and pretty much any other logical path, the conspiracy theories very quickly start to strain and break. It really doesn’t take long for the logic to completely collapse.

Yet, conversely, when one looks at the debate from the critics perspective, everything makes perfect sense.

You have a set of content creators concerned about their future over a bill. These creators become politically motivated to speak out about the bill. They point to the specific parts of the bill that have negative implications for their career. When their concerns are ignored or they get personally attacked by officials, they become upset about it. Experts weigh in and confirm that these concerns are real. Government officials are brought in and wind up confirming these fears. The bill supporters claims to the contrary quickly fall flat (as nicely demonstrated above). Everyone’s motives in this debate are clear and make sense (they are actually very easily explained even).

When the conspiracy theorists side struggles and strains to hold up at even the most basic levels of critical logical thinking and reasoning, that is a very bad sign that maybe they don’t have a leg to stand on. It’s especially a bad sign when the other side of the debate has an incredibly easy time explaining the events that unfolded, the motives, and laying out what the concerns are in the first place. Bill C-11 supporters have a laughably weak argument that is downright simple to poke holes in. While logic and reason will never stop them from trying to mislead and gaslight others, you can take comfort in knowing that this is a very lopsided debate that favours the bills critics from a logical standpoint.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

2 thoughts on “The Conspiracy Theory That Creators Are Paid Google Actors to Stop Bill C-11 Never Added Up”

  1. Bill C11 will create a two tier content system where CRTC certified content will get to ride at the front of the bus and all other content will be relegated to the back of the bus.

    1. Absolutely. The World Wide Web is about letting audiences choose what they want to consume and allowing people to succeed or fail based on what they offer to the public. It was not meant for a government to pick and choose winners and losers.

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