TikTok Also Calls for the Exclusion of User Generated Content in the Online Streaming Act

We continue our series of what different points of view said in the CRTC Online Streaming Act consultation. TikTok is up next.

Yesterday, we covered Google’s call to exclude user generated content in the Online Streaming Act. The call was part of a large chorus of groups, creators, and individuals making similar calls. Currently, the Online Streaming Act regulates user generated content, treating various forms of general expression as a “broadcast”. With that concept, it demands that platforms prioritize government certified “Cancon” speech over other speech – including Canadian made content that doesn’t quite fit the regulatory mould.

The concept, in and of itself, raised major constitutional questions. By ghettoizing large swaths of Canadian speech, ensuring that their audiences never see their content organically, is this form of government censorship unconstitutional? As far as we are concerned, it is unconstitutional on those grounds. Government censorship is not limited to outright removal of speech and take on other forms.

Even if you don’t subscribe to the notion that it’s unconstitutional, it is even easier to make the argument that it is unethical. If someone out there is trying to create a business making instructional video’s, what right does the government have in suppressing those video’s in favour of content produced by, say, CTV/Bell Media? From an economic perspective, the government is essentially picking winners and losers. If you aren’t handpicked as a designated “winner”, then regardless of the quality of content you produce and the demand your content would garner, you will never succeed as an entrepreneur. It isn’t right.

Nevertheless, the Canadian government and its lobbyist pals have insisted that Section 4.2 – the section that regulates user generated content – be left in the bill turned law no matter what. It drove home the point that the whole purpose of the Online Streaming Act was to regulate user generated content. This despite the lies that it, pinky swear, totally doesn’t regulate user generated content.

While Google made this very reasonable call – even at this stage of the implementation of the Act – they were not the only ones. TikTok has also made a similar call. In their submission, they called for the exclusion of user generated content:

Excluding Social Media Services

6. The Commission and the Government have unambiguously declared and committed to Canadians that social media content will not be regulated under the Act. In TikTok’s comments in response to Broadcasting Notices of Consultation CRTC 2023-138 (“BNC 2023-138”), CRTC 2023-139 (“BNC 2023-139”) and CRTC 2023-140 (“BNC 2023-140”), it submitted that the Commission should meet this commitment by adding social media services as a class of undertakings expressly exempt from regulation under the Act, including in respect of registration obligations, conditions of service and contribution requirements.

7. In order to meaningfully carry out the Government’s directions to the Commission, social media services should be excluded from the application of the Proposed Regulations. This exclusion should be implemented by exempting social media services from the scope of the registration obligation, as TikTok submitted in response to BNC 2023-139. The fact that some social media services could at times provide content that is also available through a licensed or registered broadcasting undertaking does not conflict with the rationale for providing an exclusion from broadcasting fees for social media services. The determinative factor should be whether the primary function of the social media service is to provide access to social media content.

If any of this is controversial, I’m personally not seeing it. It’s perfectly rational to say that platforms that focus on user generated content should be excluded. In the context of fulfilling objectives in the Broadcasting Act, what purpose does it serve to regulate things like a Ukranian in Canada trying smores? That has never made any sense to me.

It’s definitely a positive development seeing this push to exclude user generated content from regulation even after all this time. The best hope, as mentioned in the Google article, is that the CRTC ends up not enforcing Section 4.2 on such platforms. There’s no real way in knowing for sure if they will do this or not as the regulator has a history of using double-speak when talking about this issue. Still, there is no harm in asking because the worst thing that can happen is the regulator in question says “no”.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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