Google Cancon search result screenshot

Google Cancon search result screenshot

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ACTRA Wants Government To Penalize Search Engines that Refuse to Promote Canadian Content in Search Results

The escalating battle being waged for new Internet taxes to fund Canadian content does not stop with proposals for new fees on Internet access and online video services. Cultural groups also want to increase the “discoverability” of Canadian content by mandating its inclusion in search results. According to the ACTRA submission to the broadcast and telecom legislative review panel, it has been calling for search engine regulation for the past 20 years:

ACTRA stated during the 1999 CRTC process that Internet search engines would become the gateway for consumers to access the vast array of entertainment and information now available from around the world. We argued then the CRTC should regulate them.

It now argues for mandated inclusion of Canadian content in search results for cultural content under threat of economic sanction:

Regulating search engines would be difficult, but ACTRA recommends the government approach search engines like Google, Bing and others, and request they ensure Canadians are offered some Canadian choices in their search results. While it is neither possible nor appropriate to interfere in the final selection made by individuals, Canadian consumers should have a real choice, including Canadian films, television programs and music. We expect companies would concur with the government’s reasonable request to be seen as good corporate citizens. If a particular search engine does not agree to this request, the government should impose an appropriate regulatory constraint or burden, such as amending the Income Tax Act to discourage Canadians from advertising on search engines that fail to comply.

In other words, ACTRA wants the government to threaten search engines with regulatory constraints it they refuse to tinker with their algorithms to ensure that Canadian content appears when Canadian search for cultural or artistic content.

There is no doubt that search engines would refuse the government’s “request”, noting that governments should have no role in determining search results of lawful content in a free and democratic society. Indeed, ACTRA would rightly reject a government policy to condition grants or other public support for Canadian creators on the inclusion of approved messages within the content of a show. Yet it thinks that it is acceptable for the Canadian government to dictate search results to advance a government cultural policy under threat of economic penalties. It isn’t and the proposal should be firmly rejected.

10 Comments

  1. If I want Canadian content in my search results, I will specify that in my search. I don’t want the government to artificially skew the search results.

    • I could not agree more…

      We already enough issue with customized search results from search engines, I don’t want the government artificially modifying what should be a standard operation.

  2. This is beyond stupid. Thanks for shedding light on it!

  3. Media origin of source is not a bad idea to include with SERP. It works for wine, olive oil, food, clothes and just about everything else includes a “made in label. Google doesn’t want to do it cuz it cuts into their scale of media sales.

  4. It’s already here. If you go to google.com you get a localized version according to country and language.

  5. The day will come when this is going to be moot, the tech is ready to be put in orbit and it can’t come soon enough for a lot of us who must pay for this garbage and are sick of it.

  6. hoist on your own petard! I received this first via email, suffixed by “powered by Google ” Special pleading? When it began, I considered Google the seventh wonder of the world, but, because of its insidious manipulation, no longer.

  7. Pingback: News of the Week; January 30, 2019 – Communications Law at Allard Hall

  8. Major search engines like Google already return a regionally-adjusted results order. Try a Google search for a few items while using a VPN to switch regions between eastern Canada, western Canada, eastern US, western US, Europe etc.. You’ll be surprised at the difference on search terms that wouldn’t appear to be region-specific. I assume that it’s the result of an automatic algorithm that ranks pages by popularity regionally.

  9. Search engines have options to create regional results if you want them. What they need to address is news searches so that the user can avoid pay-for-news sites that pitch news subscriptions in lieu of displaying the expected search content.

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