CRTC Chair Again Flip-flops on User Content Regulation Under Bill C-11 [VIDEOS]

CRTC Chairman Ian Scott on Wednesday made another appearance before the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, which is reviewing the Liberal government’s controversial Online Streaming Act, also known as Bill C-11.

During the meeting, Scott once again flip-flopped on whether Bill C-11 would give the CRTC the authority to regulate user-generated content on the internet. He was also unable to explicitly define the extent of the CRTC’s power under the proposed bill.

Michael Geist, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa and outspoken opponent of the Online Streaming Act, put Scott’s unconvincing arguments on blast in a recent blog post.

“In this instance, Scott embarrassed himself, the CRTC, and the entire legislative process as he demonstrably failed to defend the independence of the CRTC and zig-zagged between actively promoting the bill, claiming that was not his role, and even bizarrely offering to draft potential amendments,” Geist wrote.

Scott initially gave the committee assurances that user content was off the table, as he has done before. However, when asked about the interpretation of Section 4.2, Scott admitted that the bill does give the CRTC power to regulate user-generated content, but claimed he isn’t interested in doing so. He also admitted to as much back in May.

“It’s nice that you’re going to choose to interpret the bill in this particular way, but that’s not what the language says,” Senator Paula Simons fired back at Scott. At one point in the meeting, Simons was visibly angry with Scott over his references to cat videos. You can check that out in the video below:

Scott also got into trouble with the committee for failing to safeguard the independence of the CRTC and blurring the lines between a regulator and the legislative process.

Another major concern with Bill C-11 is its potential to let the CRTC influence and demand changes to online platforms’ search and discovery algorithms. Scott was asked by the committee about his inconsistency in regard to algorithmic regulation.

While the CRTC chair did try to argue that Bill C-11 wouldn’t allow algorithmic regulation, he ultimately acknowledged that it is in the arsenal of potential approaches the CRTC could take to achieve the objectives outlined under the legislation.

Scott told Senator Miville-Dechêne, “what I’m trying to explain is that’s a very narrow example. There are numerous ways to promote discoverability.” However, he didn’t deny that the CRTC could require changes to platforms’ algorithms once it runs out of other suggestions for improving the discoverability of Canadian content.

Scott noted that he won’t require algorithmic changes, only that online platforms will be required to meet certain outcomes. That said, Scott isn’t going to be at the head of the CRTC for much longer. His term ended in September, but Ottawa extended it by a few months as it looks for a suitable replacement.

The potential threat Bill C-11 poses to not only online streaming platforms but also digital creators who publish content on them has led to YouTube, TikTok, and many Canadian creators jumping into the fray and advocating against the legislation.

Head over to Michael Geist’s blog to check out his complete take on Wednesday’s meeting.