The Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications held an exceptionally important hearing as part of its Bill C-11 pre-study (which is about to change into a Bill C-11 study) last night featuring Canadian Heritage officials and CRTC Chair Ian Scott. I will have a second post on the officials, who struggled to provide clear answers to basic questions on everything from how to identify what counts as Cancon for user content (Youtube’s Content ID was suggested) to the absence of thresholds for what is covered by the bill (there are no thresholds and the government wants the ability to also target small streamers). But the key moment of the day came in questioning Scott about the discoverability and the potential for algorithmic manipulation.
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CRTC Chair Ian Scott Confirms Bill C-11 Can Be Used To Pressure Internet Platforms to Manipulate Algorithms
The Online Streaming Act hearings at the Canadian Heritage committee continued yesterday with testimony from several notable witnesses, including CRTC Chair Ian Scott. Scott had appeared before the committee several weeks earlier, confirming that Bill C-11 contains a provision that captures user content regulation, acknowledging that “as constructed, there is a provision that would allow us to do it as required.” That statement would not ordinarily be controversial since the inclusion of user content has been readily apparent since the bill was introduced. I’ve argued that Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has engaged in systematic gaslighting with his insistence that user content is not in the bill. My post on the issue walks through the proposed legislation, noting the “CRTC is empowered to create regulations applicable to user content uploaded to social media services as programs” and focusing specifically on the discoverability rules and their implications.
Scott’s appearance was presumably designed to walk back or soften his earlier statement on user content regulation in the bill. And while he was at pains to suggest that the CRTC faced strict limits in its regulatory power, he once again acknowledged the reality:
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage continues its hearing into Bill C-11 today with hours of scheduled testimony and witnesses that include Netflix, Youtube, and CRTC Chair Ian Scott. The witness list is becoming notable both for who is not included (a bill called the Internet Streaming Act without TikTok or Amazon or Apple or Roku?!) and who is back for another appearance (Scott will surely face pressure to soften his earlier comment that the user content is included in the bill). For those Canadians that haven’t been paying close attention, I’ve compiled a short video on the hearing thus far, which has featured multiple witnesses confirm their concerns that the bill includes the regulation of user content and Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez pretending that he isn’t paying attention.
Why the Government’s New Telecom Policy Directive Means More of the Same for Canada’s Communications Competition Woes
Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne unveiled the government’s proposed new telecom policy directive yesterday, hailing it as a “historic step.” However, a closer look at the policy suggests that the only thing that is history are any immediate hopes for a more competitive communications marketplace in Canada. Once again, the government has shown itself unwilling to take a strong stand in favour of consumers and competition, instead releasing a directive that largely retains the status quo and sends the message to CRTC Chair Ian Scott to stay the course. Indeed, the primary purpose behind the announcement would appear to be an attempt to shield the government from criticism over its decision to leave the controversial CRTC decision on wholesale Internet access intact, thereby denying consumers the prospect of lower costs for Internet services.
CRTC Chair Ian Scott appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage yesterday and Bill C-11 proved to be a popular topic of discussion. The exchanges got testy at times as Scott seemingly stepped outside of his role as an independent regulatory by regularly defending government legislation, even veering into commenting on newspapers, which clearly falls outside the CRTC’s jurisdiction. With respect to Bill C-11, most newsworthy were two comments regarding the regulation of user content and the timelines for implementing the bill if it receives royal assent.