Google Fights Bill C-11 with ‘Keep YouTube Yours’ Alert

Google has started serving a new pop-up to YouTube users in Canada to help raise awareness for Bill C-11 (aka the Online Streaming Act), which could have significant implications for online streaming platforms and the Canadians who use them.

“Your YouTube feed is uniquely yours. Bill C-11 could change that,” the alert reads. The Liberal government tabled Bill C-11 in February as an amendment to the Broadcasting Act.

While Bill C-11’s stated goal is to support the creation and promotion of Canadian content, it will give the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulatory authority over online streaming platforms to achieve that.

In its current form, however, there are concerns the bill gives the CRTC too much power, potentially even bringing user-generated content under the watchdog’s purview — in fact, outgoing chair Ian Scott has already admitted it will do as much.

What’s more, Bill C-11 could also affect the livelihoods of Canadian content creators by messing with the discoverability of their videos, not only in Canada but across the globe. In June, Scott confirmed that Bill C-11 would allow the regulator to influence the algorithms that streaming companies use to rank and serve content.

Google explained in a blog post last month:

YouTube is a personalized experience for everyone, built on the principle of helping you find the videos you want to watch and will be valuable to you. And we use many signals to do this, including clicks, watchtime, shares, likes, and more. This helps us introduce viewers to new content and creators they may not have thought to look for.

In its current form, Bill C-11 would require YouTube to manipulate these systems, and surface content according to the CRTC’s priorities, rather than the interests of Canadian users. Put into practice, this means that when viewers come to the YouTube homepage, they’re served content that a Canadian Government regulator has prioritized, rather than content they are interested in.

When users are served content they aren’t interested in, they are likely to not interact with it or interact with it negatively (skipping or abandoning the video, or giving it a dislike). This indicates to YouTube’s algorithms that the content isn’t relevant or engaging, leading to it being deprioritized and harming its discoverability, not only in Canada but across the globe.

“The current version of the Bill has the potential to disadvantage the Canadian creators who build their businesses on our platform, and change the personalized experience of millions of Canadians who visit YouTube every day,” Google said.

Back in September, executives from YouTube and TikTok warned a senate committee of the dangers Bill C-11 poses to Canadian content creators. “This is a conversation that impacts so many. YouTube creators and Canadians must be made aware of what could change, and given the opportunity to ensure their voices are heard.”

Google also pointed to consumer advocacy group OpenMedia’s extensive efforts to oppose Bill C-11 and urged users to sign the organization’s petition. At the time of writing, the petition has already amassed more than 79,300 signatures.