The Canadian government is trying to force tech giants Google and Meta to compensate Canadian news publishers for the content shared on their platforms through the passage of Bill C-18, known as the Online News Act.
The response? Meta and Google maintain the legislation is unworkable. Meta has started blocking all Canadian news content from its Facebook and Instagram sites and Google says it will do the same.
“The Government of Canada has enacted a new law called Bill C-18 (the Online News Act), requiring two companies to pay for simply showing links to news, something that everyone else does for free. The unprecedented decision to put a price on links (a so-called “link tax”) creates uncertainty for our products and exposes us to uncapped financial liability simply for facilitating Canadians’ access to news from Canadian publishers. We have been saying for over a year that this is the wrong approach to supporting journalism in Canada and may result in significant changes to our products,” according to a June 29 statement by Kent Walker, President of Global Affairs, Google & Alphabet.
“Bill C-18 has become law and remains unworkable. The Government has not given us reason to believe that the regulatory process will be able to resolve structural issues with the legislation. As a result, we have informed the Government that we have made the difficult decision that when the law takes effect we will be removing links to Canadian news from our Search, News, and Discover products and will no longer be able to operate Google News Showcase in Canada,” he adds.
The government of Canada maintains that the bill levels the playing field. “The Online News Act levels the playing field between news businesses and large digital platforms to enhance fairness and contribute to the sustainability of the news sector. It encourages voluntary commercial agreements between platforms and news businesses with minimal government intervention. It includes several safeguards to preserve the independence of the press.”
The legislation states that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will be the final arbitrator on agreements between news producers and the platforms that share their news. It states “The CRTC will be responsible for overseeing the Online News Act and has its own regulatory authorities. It is expected to implement the Act. For example, it will clarify the process by which requests for eligibility by news businesses are treated. It will oversee the bargaining, negotiation, and external final-offer arbitration processes between platforms and news businesses. It will create a code of conduct to support fairness and transparency in bargaining and establish processes regarding undue preference or discrimination.” You can find that, HERE.
Parry Sound-Muskoka Conservative Member of Parliament Scott Aitchison said he intrinsically disagrees with the legislation. He said community news will be the first and hardest hit as many community members hit social media to get their news.
But the repercussions may be much more far-reaching than social media channels like Facebook and Instagram if Google makes good on its promise as well.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think the Federal government is going to win and they seem to think they’re on the side of righteousness here,” said Aitchison. “Fundamentally, it’s a limit on free speech.”
He said the Conservatives fought hard against the legislation and proposed solutions that would’ve enabled Canadians to continue accessing their news content while also compensating news outlets. He said the Senate also proposed a number of amendments that were rejected and the legislation was passed by the Liberals with the support of the Bloc Quebecois. “The Liberals only need one other party to get things passed and in this particular one, it was the Bloc. Because the Bloc is all about protecting French culture and so they wanted to tax the big Internet giants to make sure they were getting money to produce French programming,” he said. “Even the Bloc couldn’t be convinced that you’re going to cut off your nose to spite your face because guess how much they’re going to invest in this country now?”
According to Canada’s Federal government, “Without new public funding, regulation of digital markets, and international support systems for non-profit media, independent professional journalism is in danger of becoming an expensive luxury rather than a universal public good.” But many argue that the legislation may exacerbate the demise of local, independent journalism if communities in Canada can’t access the content. To that end, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodrigues has been quoted by The Canadian Press as saying that his government will continue to support Canadian newsrooms if Meta and Google pull Canadian news content from their platforms, although he did not say how exactly that would be done.
Many are hoping the Federal government will come up with an agreement as some readers have already started to see their content on social restricted.
Doppler is recommending to their readers that they access their website directly if Canadian content is being blocked on social media. You can find us at https://southmuskoka.doppleronline.ca/
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