Google has been in the spotlight for the past few weeks with reports that it has been testing removal news links from search results. The move sparked outrage from MPs, who grilled executives earlier today at Canadian Heritage committee. But now it appears Google has company: the Globe and Mail reports that Facebook has confirmed that it will remove news sharing from its platforms if Bill C-18 passes in its current form. The decision, which would affect Meta platforms Facebook and Instagram, should not come as a surprise since it warned that it was considering the possibility last fall. In fact, the case for Facebook blocking news sharing is even stronger than Google given that news constitutes only three percent of news feeds on the platform and the experience in Australia was that its removal had little impact on user engagement.
Cutting Through the Noise of the Bill C-11 Debate: Regulating User Content Remains a Reality
The debate on Senate amendments to Bill C-11 continued in the House of Commons yesterday, with hours devoted to MPs from all parties claiming misinformation by their counterparts. There were no shortage of head-shaking moments: MPs that still don’t know that CraveTV is not a foreign streaming service, references to Beachcombers as illustrations of Cancon, comparisons to China that go beyond the reality of the bill, calls for mandated cultural contributions from TikTok even as the government bans the app, and far too much self-congratulation from MPs claiming to have done great work on the bill when the Senate review demonstrated its inadequacy. But buried amongst those comments were several notable moments that illustrated the reality and risks of Bill C-11.
Hey Minister Rodriguez: Canadian Digital Creators Are Not Loopholes
The battle over Bill C-11 is nearing its conclusion as the government introduced a motion in the House of Commons yesterday that rejects the Senate’s amendment that would ensure that platforms such as Youtube would be caught by the legislation consistent with the government’s stated objective, but that user content would not. As I discussed yesterday, the decision leaves no doubt about the government’s true intent with Bill C-11: retain the power and flexibility to regulate user content. In fact, I noted that Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez wasn’t trying to disguise that objective since the justification for rejecting the change boiled down to the government wanting the power to direct the CRTC on user content today and the power to exert further regulation tomorrow.
Government Rejection of Key Senate Bill C-11 Amendment Reveals Its True Intent: Retain Power to Regulate User Content
For more than a year, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has clung to the Bill C-11 mantra of “platforms in, users out”. When presented with clear evidence from thousands of digital creators, the former chair of the CRTC, and numerous experts that that wasn’t true, the Senate passed compromise language to ensure that platforms such as Youtube would be caught by the legislation consistent with the government’s stated objective, but that user content would not. Last night, Rodriguez rejected the compromise amendment, turning his back on digital creators and a Senate process lauded as one of the most comprehensive ever. In doing so, he has left no doubt about the government’s true intent with Bill C-11: retain power and flexibility to regulate user content.
A Tax on Freedom Of Expression: Report Suggests Bill C-18 Could Be Expanded Even Beyond Mandated Payment for Links
Google was scheduled to appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage yesterday to discuss Bill C-18 and its test of the removal of links to Canadian news services for a small percentage of its users, but the meeting was postponed due to technical difficulties. That ensured that the big Bill C-18 news of the day did not come from the hearing, but rather from an exceptional Ricochet Media article featuring comments from Senator Paula Simons that should heighten concern about the government’s intent with Bill C-18. Senator Simons, a longtime journalist and Trudeau appointee to the Senate, raises many concerns with the bill (and a great line that “honest to god, I feel that this is written by people who have never used the Internet”), but I think this is the key passage, which opens the door to targets beyond Google and Facebook:
Then there’s the question of what would happen down the road if Google and Facebook were no longer profitable? Simons told Ricochet that when she raised that question with staff in the Heritage ministry, she was told they “would turn to TikTok.”“I said, ‘Wait a minute! TikTok doesn’t share news links,’” Simons recalled. “And staff said, ‘TikTok shares news stories in other ways. It talks about the news.’ I said, ‘Woah, wait a minute! That’s a fair-use argument.’…Then the official said to me, ‘Lots of Canadians get their news from TikTok.’” But, she pointed out, if a content creator on TikTok talks about something they read, that’s not the same as actually sharing a news story.