Canada Wants YouTube, TikTok to Prioritize Canadian Content | #socialmedia

OTTAWA—Canada wants to force YouTube, TikTok and other video- and audio-sharing sites to prominently feature more of the country’s artists, a move that digital-law experts and former government officials call one of the most aggressive internet regulations yet from a Western country.

The aim to promote domestic content on the sites is a step in the Canadian government’s multipronged effort to get the world’s biggest digital companies to contribute more financially to the country’s economy. Canada has vowed to levy a digital-services tax starting in 2022, regardless of whether there is a global deal among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development members on such a tax this summer.

The Liberal government also intends to follow Australia in trying to get digital platforms to compensate media outlets for content, and to create a new regulator to police hate speech and other harmful online activity.

The content proposal, unveiled last month, has generated criticism from rival politicians, law professors and net-neutrality advocates, who argue it is akin to an attack on free speech.

“The government is talking about picking winners and losers in the sector of free expression,” said

Philip Palmer,

a former senior lawyer at Canada’s justice department who three decades ago helped draft the current rules governing the broadcast sector, and who opposes the current effort.

Google’s campus in Mountain View, Calif.


Cayce Clifford for The Wall Street Journal

Canada’s Liberal government calls the criticism misguided. It says the proposal is meant to help the struggling broadcasting sector, which has lost advertising revenue to digital companies, and to showcase Canada’s artists.

The effort comes in the form an amendment to a bill introduced last November by the government under Prime Minister

Justin Trudeau

that would require online streaming services such as

Netflix Inc.,

Walt Disney Co.


Spotify Technology SA

to contribute part of their revenue to fund domestic production of television shows, movies and music.

The Liberals, with the support of other political parties, amended the bill about a month ago in an effort to showcase Canadian content on platforms like the YouTube service of

Alphabet Inc.’s

Google and TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd.

The legislation is working its way through Canada’s lower house, and one of the main opposition parties, the Bloc Quebecois, has vowed to support the bill, thereby ensuring its passage in the Liberal-run government. Rules on how these measures will be enforced will be decided after the legislation is passed, the government said.

That process could take years and likely face court challenges, said

Konrad von Finckenstein,

the former head of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the broadcast regulator that would be in charge of enforcing the legislation.

According to legal experts who have reviewed the proposal, Canada could compel YouTube, TikTok and other sites to rewrite their algorithms—which tend to match viewers with videos based on their individual interests—to give Canadian content preference over foreign-made content whenever a user with a Canadian internet-protocol address types in a search or pulls up such a site.

Content uploaded onto these platforms would be subject to regulation by the CRTC, which issues licences to television and radio broadcasters on the condition they play a certain quota of Canadian content.


Do video- and audio-sharing sites have an obligation to feature artistic content by a country’s artists, and if so, should that be mandated? Join the conversation below.

Currently, a search from a Canadian user for “best rock songs” pulls up compilations featuring artists like Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC. Should the algorithm be altered, the search might instead come back featuring compilations of Canadian rock n’ roll, highlighting Nickelback, Avril Lavigne and Simple Plan, among others.

Steven Guilbeault,

the Canadian minister in charge of cultural policy, said the government has no intention to censor or regulate individuals who upload content to social-media platforms.

“The internet is dominated by a few massive American companies whose algorithms dictate what we see, hear and consume,” Mr. Guilbeault told lawmakers this month at a parliamentary committee. “Many of our artists and creators, especially francophones, indigenous and racialized people, have a hard time being heard in their language and culture.”

At the committee, a Conservative Party legislator asked Mr. Guilbeault whether Canada intended to demand YouTube, TikTok to rewrite their algorithms.

Mr. Guilbeault did not answer directly but said “the concept is ensuring that as part of these platforms, Canadian content becomes more visible for Canadians.”

A spokeswoman for Google’s YouTube said the video-sharing website is concerned about the policy’s unintended consequences, such as the impact it might have on Canadian content creators trying to reach a global audience.

“YouTube is built on the premise of openness. This legislation, in its current form, appears to put this at risk,” the spokeswoman said. A spokeswoman for TikTok didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the main lobby group representing private-sector TV and radio networks, supports the legislation. The amendment targeting YouTube and TikTok algorithms “ensures that broadcasting content is treated equitably and fairly, regardless of platform,” said the Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, a Quebec-based umbrella group that represents English- and French-speaking cultural organizations.

The proposal has some similarities to one passed by the European Union in 2018, which includes a local-content quota, instructing member states to require on-demand video services like Netflix to fill at least 30% of their catalogues in the region with European programs and movies. But unlike the Canadian proposal, the EU obligations don’t extend to user-generated videos or video-sharing platforms such as YouTube and TikTok—unless videos are deemed harmful, such as hate speech and incitements to illegal activity.

Scott Benzie

is head of Canada’s Buffer Festival, which showcases short films made for YouTube and links organizations looking to increase their internet profile with content creators. He said he is worried that forcing changes onto the algorithms will have a big potential downside: fewer eyeballs outside Canada for Canadian-made YouTube content. That is because content tagged as Canadian could face bias, he said.

“Online creators don’t care about a geographic audience. They care about an audience who is interested in their stuff,” Mr. Benzie said. “If they start delivering content on the basis that it’s Canadian, that is going to hurt the creator.”

Write to Paul Vieira at

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Original Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

eighty three − seventy seven =