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YouTube may be prompted to manipulate algorithms during AC billing: CRTC chair – National

YouTube may be prompted to manipulate algorithms during AC billing: CRTC chair – National

The chairman of Canada’s Broadcast Regulator says it may ask platforms like YouTube to “manipulate” its algorithms to make Canadian music easier to find, under proxies in the proposed AC bill.

Ian Scott told a Senate committee examining the bill that while the Canadian Broadcasting Commission does not want to manipulate algorithms itself, it can tell platforms: “I want you to manipulate it (the algorithm) to produce specific results.”

His statements have been gripped by critics of the AC bill, who say it confirms what they have warned against.

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Matthew Hatfield of OpenMedia said that Scott’s comments confirmed “what we have been saying all along”. OpenMedia is an organization dedicated to keeping the Internet open. Although it is mainly funded by individuals, it receives some funding from Google, whose parent company also owns YouTube.

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YouTube has warned that Canadian digital creators, including influencers and streamers, could lose foreign revenue if the government forces digital platforms to promote Canadian content.

This is because algorithms cross national borders, and if a Canadian song presented to the YouTube audience in Canada is not liked or selected, it may indicate that it is not popular. This in turn could lead to it being downgraded worldwide.


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The bill would update Canada’s broadcasting laws to include platforms including Netflix, YouTube and Spotify, forcing them to take steps to make Canadian content _ including music, movies and TV series _ more “discoverable”.

Michael Geist, of the University of Ottawa’s Canada Research Chair in Internet Law, said it had long been clear that these rules would require algorithmic manipulation.

“That’s actually exactly why so many Canadian digital creators expressed concern about the bill and the damage it could cause,” he said.

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“The CRTC leader has acknowledged that the law will allow the government to do indirectly what it says it cannot do directly, by forcing platforms to manipulate its algorithms to prioritize certain content over other.”

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Geist said this could lead to Canadian creators downgrading content globally, leading to reduced revenue and exposure.

But Minister of Cultural Heritage Pablo Rodriguez has publicly said that the bill will not lead to platforms being asked to manipulate their algorithms.


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On Thursday, his spokeswoman stressed that the government’s position has not changed, and pointed out that part of Bill C-11 specifically excludes manipulation of algorithms. A clause in the bill would prevent the CRTC from issuing an order requiring “the use of a specific computer algorithm or source code.”

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“The government will ask the CRTC to work with the platforms to showcase content so that more Canadians can find, select and enjoy content from Canadian artists and creators,” said Laura Scaffidi.

“It will be up to the platforms to decide how best to achieve these goals.”

Scott made his remarks Wednesday night when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, which is conducting a preliminary study of the bill.

The bill on online streaming this week went through the House of Commons, but will now be scrutinized in the Senate.

In his opening remarks to the committee, Scott said that the CRTC “largely supports” the bill, but wants to see some changes made, including one that will allow it to continue resolving disputes.

YouTube, Spotify and CRTC declined to comment.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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