It’s among the most far-reaching plans by governments anywhere to regulate the algorithms tech companies use to amplify or recommend content.
Canadian lawmakers passed a controversial bill that aims to regulate programming distributed by media streaming services and social platforms like Facebook and YouTube, a measure that critics warn could infringe on individual speech.
The legislation drafted by Justin Trudeau’s government, known as Bill C-10, is meant to subject tech giants to the same requirements as traditional broadcasters — effectively compelling companies like Netflix Inc. and TikTok Inc. to finance and promote Canadian content. It’s among the most far-reaching plans by governments anywhere to regulate the algorithms tech companies use to amplify or recommend content.
And, in an age when everyone is a potential publisher, the Act to Amend the Broadcasting Act could affect individual expression on social media and other digital platforms that rely on user-generated content.
It’s unclear whether the bill will become law, however. The legislation needs to win passage through the Senate, a process that could be pre-empted by an election later this year that would effectively kill the bill. If that happens, a new government would have to put it through the legislative mill again if it wants the rules to come into effect.
Trudeau’s government hailed its passage. “There are other issues we have to address when it comes to broadcasting and creation, and we will,” Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said during the final debate Monday evening. “Bill C-10 is a first step in that direction.”
Governments around the world are grappling with how to modernize their legal frameworks to account for the global reach of the digital economy, reshaping how policy makers think about issues as varied as monopoly power, taxation and worker rights.
In Canada, an additional worry is how to protect domestic cultural industries as more Canadians turn to internet companies for music and video programming, which is the focus of the new law.
Stunting the influence of U.S. culture, in particular, is a core principle of modern Canadian media law. For decades the government has required radio and television broadcasters to produce and distribute local content.
That stance has irked trading partners, because it means that the media sector is often exempted from agreements meant to give foreigners access to Canadian markets. It also means that global media companies like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. can’t own newspapers or television stations in Canada.