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Canada Plots to Increase Online Regulation, Target Search and Social Media Algorithms

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Canada is taking steps towards potentially intrusive regulation of artificial intelligence as it pertains to its application in search and social media services. The government’s intentions have been revealed, which includes AI application way beyond the realm of generative AI similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Industry giants such as Google and Facebook, who utilize AI for search results, translation provisions, and customer taste recognition respectively, are among the contenders lined up in the regulatory intent with the pro-censorship government intent on having a say on how these algorithms work.

The information comes by way of Minister François-Philippe Champagne of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) in a letter submitted to the Industry committee analyzing Bill C-27—the privacy reform and AI regulation bill. Precise amendments remain shielded from scrutiny, however, as the governmental body keeps the proposed changes under wraps.

We obtained a copy of the original bill for you here.

The existing framework in Bill C-27 leaves the identification of AI mechanisms that can be classified into the “high-impact” category to future regulatory proceedings.

Bill C-27, by treating search and social media results as “high-impact” systems, is likely to raise eyebrows as the government’s push towards regulating technology has so far been assertive of greater control over content and therefore speech.

Non-compliance, under this proposal, may invite penalties proportional to 3% of gross global revenues.

The legislation veers into controversial territory by infusing the regulation of content moderation and discoverability prioritization into the matrix, in unexpected ways. It attempts to parallel these issues to bias accusation during recruitment or when used by law enforcement, invoking substantial surprise. Consequently, Canada’s rules, although they claim to align more closely with the EU, seem to set the country apart, leaning more towards censorship and less towards free speech.

The news comes on the back of Canada’s more recent online regulations that have raised alarm.

Bill C-11, also known as the Online Streaming Act, establishes a regulatory framework for digital streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, and Spotify, mandating their contribution to the creation and promotion of Canadian content. This law empowers the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to regulate these platforms similarly to radio and television. Critics argue that it infringes on Canadian citizens’ rights to choose the content they consume, possibly leading to a form of censorship​​.

It also means that platforms, even those that host podcasts have to register with the state.

The law has been described as a “censorship bill” by some critics, who argue that its wording is vague enough to allow government bureaucrats to control content selection processes covertly, thereby potentially limiting Canadians’ freedom to choose​.

The bill is using the guise of freedom of expression to apply regulatory measures, asserting that it will be implemented in a manner consistent with the freedom of expression and journalistic, creative, and programming independence enjoyed by broadcasting undertakings​.

Furthermore, Bill C-11, by updating the Broadcasting Act, subjects digital content creators to regulation by the CRTC, a move seen as potentially stifling to digital creators and a step towards online censorship​​. The debate around the bill, especially its passage through the Senate, sparked concerns among some observers that it might mark the beginning of a new age of internet censorship in Canada​.

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