Money to Canadian Publishers: Google vs Federal Government

TORONTO – Google against Bill 11. And even Bill 18 doesn’t seem so good. We are talking about the two bills of the liberal government that would force the web giant to promote Canadian content (Bill 11) and to share its entries with the publishers who provide the news (Bill 18). 

Against the first one, Bill 11 “Online Streaming Act”, Google launched a online campaign on Wednesday by publishing posts on blogs and on Twitter with the slogan “keep YouTube yours”. “Your YouTube feed is unique. Bill C-11 could change that” warns one of the Google posts.

At stake are the “discoverability” provisions of the Online Streaming Act, which would require online platforms to promote Canadian contents. Creators of those contents warned, however, that the “discoverability” rules, which aim to help them be more visible, could backfire. This is because if the new rules force you to show content to users who are not interested and those users do not look or do not interact with that content, the algorithms used by digital platforms will penalize the content and therefore its creators.

In a post, YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said it’s “deeply concerning” that the bill “has the potential to disadvantage Canadian creators who build their businesses on our platform and change the personalized experience of millions of Canadians who visit YouTube every day “. The bill would require YouTube to “manipulate” its recommendation algorithm systems “and to bring out content based on the priorities of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) rather than the interests of Canadian users” and this means that users will be offered “content that a Canadian government regulator has prioritized, rather than content that they are interested in.”

Chris Bittle, Parliamentary Secretary of the Federal Minister of Heritage, replies: “The technology giants – he said, according to reports from the National Post – are trying to scare Canadian content creators who depend on their platforms. The bill does not dictate algorithms to the platforms: it is up to the platforms themselves to decide how to show our Canadian culture and there are many ways to do it without harming our creators” said Bittle.

Federal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez himself said there is a “fear campaign” around the bill, ensuring that Bill 11 aims to ensure that streaming platforms contribute to the system and that the model will be flexible and based on different business models.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, California-based President of Google’s Global Affairs Kent Walker went to Ottawa to meet with the government and to talk abou both Bill C-11 and the other piece of legislation, Bill 18, which would force Google to share revenue with news publishers. In essence, Bill 18, Online News Act, would force Google and Meta, the company of Facebook, to reach commercial agreements with publishers, under the threat of mandatory arbitration.

Google Canada Spokesman Shay Purdy said Walker “met with a variety of stakeholders in Ottawa to discuss key policy priorities, including bills C-11 and C-18.” Purdy added that Walker was in Canada this week to announce new grants for Canadian nonprofits.

“These pieces of legislation will negatively impact creators, businesses and all Canadians who depend on our products and services, and [we] have a responsibility to ensure those impacts are well understood,” said Purdy. And on Wednesday a group of Canadian content creators sent a letter to senators, warning that under Bill C-11 their “livelihoods are at risk” and calling on the Senate to remove “detectability” provisions from the bill. The letter, sent under the auspices of the Digital First Canada group, is signed by dozens of creators “who have more than 250 million global subscribers across multiple platforms”, its executive director Scott Benzie said.

Both bills are currently being studied by parliamentary committees. Bill C-18 is in first reading and before the House of Commons Heritage Committee. Bill C-11 passed its third reading in the House and is now in the Senate, where senators are likely to attempt to change its “controversial” aspects.