Reviews | With Bill C-11, Trudeau is still trying to destroy Canadian YouTube

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At the end of January, Dan Olson, a Canadian YouTuber, released a self-produced documentary called “Line Goes Up – The Problem With NFTs”. Olson’s politics are not mine, but the troubling questions he raises about the long-term implications of increasingly pervasive blockchain technology on everything from millennial wealth to personal privacy make his essential two-hour video.

But Olson hardly needs my approval. As of this writing, “Line Goes Up” has been viewed over 7 million times. In the global discourse on NFTs, a modest man from Calgary, Alberta has emerged as a prominent skeptic.

He is also one of many, many Canadians who have found a way to thrive in the unique media ecosystem that is YouTube. The millions of views his videos regularly draw are something any mainstream Canadian journalist or artist would envy, as are the nearly 700,000 subscribers to his channel, “Folding Ideas.”

I thought of Olson — and the 449 Canadian YouTubers more popular than him — amid news that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government intends to revive its stalled efforts to regulate YouTube in a more nationalistic direction. Trudeau’s project, after all, is based on a series of findings about the supposedly struggling state of Canadian digital content creators that are so insultingly at odds with observable reality that they invite suspicion of hidden, darker motives. .

Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act – the successor to the abandoned Bill C-10 that garnered much scorn last spring – again proposes to place YouTube (and other platforms similar) under the authority of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which will have the power to force YouTube to categorize and distribute its content as Canadian television and radio stations already do.

In practice, this means dictating “the proportion of time that must be devoted to the broadcast of Canadian programs”, as well as “prescribing what constitutes a Canadian program”. It could eventually force YouTube to bury foreign videos every time a Canadian uses its search engine, as well as force Canadian creators to fill out some sort of checklist when they upload a video to affirm that it meets criteria dictated by the government of Canadian character and is worthy of “discoverability” in the new search algorithm. It could even force Canadian users to automatically subscribe to channels the government deems worthy – The current obligation of Canadian cable companies to force Canadians to subscribe to stations like the CBC and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, whether they want to or not. Clause 10.1(k) of the bill grants the CRTC disturbing and unlimited power to make regulations “respecting such other matters as it deems necessary to achieve its objectives”.

All of this is done in the name of a greater patriotic good: protecting Canada’s “cultural sovereignty” and “making our diverse Canadian voices, music and stories heard across Canada and around the world through a variety of services,” says government press release. , alongside the more ideologically specific goal of ensuring “greater representation of Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, cultural and linguistic minorities, LGBTQ2+ communities, and persons with disabilities” to ensure that “our culture and our content will better reflect a 21st century Canada.

It’s a remarkably ignorant statement given that there’s little evidence that these lofty goals aren’t already being achieved by an unregulated YouTube.

I myself am an LGBTQ2+ YouTuber who has never struggled to tell “Canadian stories” on the platform – as Tristin Hopper once noted of me in the National Post, “man got 250,000 views on a video on the Canadian constitution”. Evan “Vanoss” Fong and Lilly Singh are among the most successful Canadians in YouTube history, and both are visible minorities. Radical Indigenous rights activist Pam Palmater has a channel, a Brazilian-Canadian girl has gained over 8 million subscribers by making videos where she only speaks Portuguese…the list goes on. The Canadian government itself regularly concedes this reality whenever it feels the need to assemble an elite team of diverse and interesting YouTubers for an overpriced “influencer” campaign pushing votes or vaccines or whatever.

For 17 years, YouTube has been a case study of what would happen if a user-driven streaming platform were allowed to operate in Canada without CRTC intervention. The result has been endless hours of quality Canadian content and thousands of Canadian superstars, some of whom are among the most-watched personalities on the site and perhaps some of the most famous Canadians in the world.

That being the case, Bill C-11 has earned the vicious characterization of its fiercest opponents: an act of an authoritarian-minded government seeking to better control independent media for purely ideological purposes in an unprecedented reinvention the state’s right to control online content. , justified only by a compelling assertion that politicians and bureaucrats should decide what their citizens need to see.

If passed, it will only serve to empower other regimes that believe unlimited freedom to choose what we watch and hear is a monster to be slain.

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