On yesterday’s episode of The Ezra Levant Show, Ezra delved into the findings of an access to information request made by Rebel News, which unveiled the Liberal government’s minimal research on the potential economic impact of Meta/Facebook banning Canadian news. While the government claims to have taken action against Facebook due to their desire to secure more funding for news companies, the reality is that Facebook’s decision to stop linking to Canadian news sites was a direct result of the proposed linking tax brought forward by the Trudeau administration. Understandably, news companies benefit greatly from traffic generated through Facebook, as it attracts new readers, and potentially, donors. This is why many news companies actively promote their content on the platform and even pay for advertisements. However, the decision to implement a linking tax meant that Facebook had no choice but to stop sharing links to Canadian news sites. The outcome of this decision has been catastrophic, resulting in a significant decrease in daily visits and overall exposure for Canadian news outlets.
Considering the impact of this decision, it is reasonable to question the government’s intentions. Did Trudeau and his cabinet fully consider the consequences of their actions, or were they more focused on their own financial gain? The Liberals have previously shown a willingness to control the media landscape, as evident in Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s support for a licensing requirement for news websites and podcasters in Canada. This raises concerns about the intention behind the linking tax and whether it was truly aimed at supporting news outlets or simply an attempt to assert control over the media.
Rebel News sought to uncover the government’s analysis on the economic and financial impacts of banning Canadian news content on Facebook. Surprisingly, they were only provided with a mere six-page document, titled “MEMORANDUM TO THE HONORABLE PABLO RODRIGUEZ PLATFORM EXIT FROM THE ONLINE NEWS MARKET.” While the document does not have any specific dates mentioned, it is believed to be from 2023, based on Rebel News’ request. It highlights Meta’s (Facebook’s parent company) decision to block Canadian and non-Canadian news on Facebook and Instagram for a certain percentage of Canadian users. Additionally, Google had also expressed potential plans to block or limit news access in search results if Bill C-18 received Royal Assent. Unfortunately, significant portions of the document have been redacted, making it difficult to fully understand the government’s line of thinking.
Another section of the document titled “International Momentum” explores global efforts to regulate platforms’ sharing of news. One example includes the California Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which aims to direct digital advertising giants to pay news outlets a “journalism usage fee” when their advertisements are displayed alongside news content. However, it is questionable whether such a regulation would hold up against the U.S. First Amendment. The document further discusses the UK’s consideration of a digital markets competition bill, which could potentially intervene in the digital news marketplace to ensure fair competition. Nevertheless, the impact on online news remains uncertain. In addition to these examples, the document mentions the plans of New Zealand, Indonesia, and South Africa, highlighting the varying degrees of media regulation in different countries.
While these examples are presented as “international momentum,” it is crucial to note the disparity between Canada’s approach and that of other nations. In fact, even highly autocratic regimes have not implemented media regulation to the extent that Canada has. This emphasizes how out of touch Trudeau’s censorship and media regulation plans are compared to international norms. The document also touches upon Australia’s attempt to implement a similar regulation, which resulted in Facebook ceasing to share news on their platform. This should have served as a clear warning to the Canadian government about the potential consequences of their actions.
The last page of the memo focuses on “International Precedents” and highlights France’s implementation of the EU’s copyright reform. Under this reform, press publishers have the right to request payment when their content is displayed on online platforms. As a response, Google ceased to display press publishers’ content in search results unless authorized to do so free of charge. This demonstrates the detrimental effect of requiring payment for news content in search engine results. The memo also notes Google News’ closure in Spain for almost a decade due to the country’s legislation forcing the platform to pay a collective licensing fee.
In conclusion, the six-page document obtained by Rebel News offers insights into the government’s view of the potential economic impact of banning Canadian news on Facebook. However, the redactions and limited information provided raise suspicions about the government’s true intentions. The memo also sheds light on similar instances in other countries, which serve as cautionary tales for Canada. The ramifications of Trudeau’s media regulation and censorship plans are far-reaching and have put Canada out of step with international norms. The government must reconsider its actions and prioritize the freedom of the press and the sustainability of the news industry. Failure to do so could continue to decimate Canadian news outlets and undermine the principles of democracy and freedom of information.