When Le Devoir director Brian Myles appeared before the Senate committee studying Bill C-18 last month, he closed by urging the committee to pass the legislation quickly, stating “the time to act is now. We can’t wait two years between the passage of the bill and the CRTC regulations, because the delay will benefit opponents, giving them time to organize and undermine the spirit and the letter of the law.” While Myles acknowledged that claims regarding “theft” of news content by Internet platforms was overstated, he nevertheless expressed full support for the bill. One month later, the Online News Act is now law, Meta has confirmed that it will block news sharing before it takes effect, and the government is reportedly in last ditch negotiations with Google to stop it from doing the same.
Myles published an editorial in Le Devoir yesterday which featured a far different closing message than the one delivered to the Senate. The Google translate version:
The media won against Google and Meta, but at what cost? This may all be a big Meta bluff, like in Australia. The future will tell us soon enough. With the rise of AI to generate discounted content and power search engines, the global fatigue with news content, the radical transformation of news consumption habits, the possibility that Google, and above all Meta, can do without journalistic content to achieve their ends is less far-fetched than it seems.
This message is precisely what critics of the bill warned for months. Myles told the committee that 40% of Le Devoir’s traffic comes from Google search and an additional 30% from social media. In other words – despite having deals with all the major platforms – Le Devoir still fully backed the bill that could now result in those deals coming to an end and the majority of its referral traffic disappearing. These were risks Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez chose to ignore with a bill that could cause enormous harm to the media sector and which may lead to a serious case of buyer’s remorse for the media sector. For more on recent developments, I’ve embedded a couple recent media interviews that address the issue.