Since August 1st, Canadians have not been able to see any news links on Facebook and Instagram. It doesn’t matter if the news is American or Algerian, if it’s right or left leaning, we simply can’t access any news on these social media platforms.
The reason? A controversial piece of legislation called Bill C-18. Also called the Online News Act, the bill seeks to put a “link tax” on any kind of news shared by Meta or Google.
Strong-arming the Tech Giants
The Bill was originally introduced in April of 2022. Meta and Google both responded by saying they would pull all news off their platforms in Canada.
Canadian politicians thought they were bluffing, but they weren’t. Before the bill finally passed, the Canadian government began boycotting Meta by pulling their ads. The loss in revenue was a whopping $10 million dollars (Canadian), peanuts compared to the $100 billion dollars (U.S.) Meta makes every year.
As Meta has openly discussed, news traffic only counts for about 3% of its usage. Banning news for Canadian users probably won’t affect the platform’s popularity. On the other hand, the Canadian government has faced repeated criticism for trying to strong-arm the tech giant into paying its link tax.
Canadians Lose the News
When the bill was passed in Late July, Meta followed through on those threats. On August 1st Meta decided to remove all links to any kind of news in Canada. This means that right now in Canada, users on Instagram and Facebook cannot see links to news of any kind from anywhere.
Google, on the other hand, seems to have worked out a compromise of sorts, although the details of those negotiations are still unclear. Canadian marketing companies are boycotting Meta, while news outlets nationwide are losing major revenue from having their links blocked.
The government is trying to appease media outlets with talk of some kind of compensation, likely a tax credit or benefit of some sort. As of yet the nature of this compensation is unclear.
But Meta isn’t budging. Critics have been warning Trudeau and the liberals about this legislation since it was introduced. They argue it doesn’t make sense. Defenders point to places like Australia where similar legislation was introduced with some success. But the Canadian bill doesn’t seem to be working very well.
A Lose-Lose Situation
Trudeau says the bill is about making Big Tech companies pay their fair share, in order to protect free speech and democracy. But this is ironic since he shut down debate in order to ram the bill through. As it stands, Canada and Meta are at an impasse and there’s no telling when it will end.
This is a lose-lose situation for everyone. But those who are most vulnerable are smaller scale, independent media sources that aren’t funded by the Canadian government to begin with. These companies depend on social media to establish themselves and gain new followers which means they are taking a big hit.
It is unclear what the end game here is, but this legislation is certainly not making free speech, or “democracy” any stronger. In fact, Canadians have only lost freedom of access to the news sources they trust to make those things possible.
Angelos Kyriakides loves to write about current events, apologetics, spiritual healing and theology. He holds an M.A. in Theological Studies from Regent College and currently serves as a Youth and Young Adult Pastor in Southern Ontario, Canada. He is also blessed with a loving family in his wife and two children.
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