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The decision by Google & Meta to stop sharing links to Canadian-published news will mean that Canadian voices will be absent on the global stage in relation to Canadian stories. We will let others define us.
As we head into Canada Day, it would be normal to expect a joyous atmosphere. Alas, that is not to be. Just a short while ago, Google announced that it would stop sharing links to Canadian-published news once Bill C-18 comes into operation. This follows a similar decision by Meta, which owns the Facebook and Instagram platforms.
Given how ill-thought out this piece of legislation is, this was inevitable. It was predictable. It was predicted. The people responsible for this dumb atrocity shrugged, called their opponents all sorts of names and posed as oracles who knew where to take the country on its journey into the future. When the tech companies involved raised alarms and pointed to the possibility that they would stop sharing Canadian links, Minister Rodriguez characterized those statements as ‘threats’. The minister, and his entire government, have painted themselves into a corner. There is no graceful way out of this mess for them. This is actually bad news: with no possibility of salvaging their pride, they will double down on their disastrous approach and cause even more damage.
The entire premise of the provisions of Bill C-18 that has caused this conflagration – that the tech giants were / are ‘stealing’ the content of Canadian news publishers – is patently absurd and should have been tossed in the dustbin of history, without spending even a minute in the real world. But the ideas encased in these provisions were too alluring to two parties: (a) the dying legacy media, who have convinced themselves that leeching off other people’s money is a viable business model, as opposed to re-achieving viability via innovation, and (b) the dyed-in-the-wool Statists, both in government and outside, who realized that with C-18, the State had the opportunity to increase their control over private entities. Neither of these constituencies realized the dangers that lay in the path of this legislation. Both were driven by greed – of unearned money (we can use the colloquial expression ‘grift’ here) and power. As the old saying goes, the only thing that humans have to learn from history is that humans have never learned from history. Especially in an era where it is fashionable to deride religion, nobody in these two groups entertained any thought as to why temptation / greed / avarice is considered to be a deadly sin (universally, not just in Christianity).
One special aspect of this partial blackout of Canadian news (maybe we can call it a brown-out) that I haven’t seen being mentioned – let alone commented upon – is that links to Canadian-published news will be unavailable WORLDWIDE on Meta & Google. This has ominous consequences. Supporters of Bill C-18 are fond of saying that if Canadian news is not linked by Google & Meta, the stories are still available via the websites and apps of the publishers themselves. I believe that this a Canada-centric view (which is one of the causes of this mess). To borrow a term from the great author Michael Crichton, the thinking here is ‘deeply provincial’; it ignores the world outside the provincial borders (of Canada in this case). The world over, people searching for a Canadian news story on Google, Facebook or Instagram will not find the links to these stories by Canadian publishers. As one-time or occasional or sporadic consumers of Canadian news, they cannot be reasonably expected to subscribe to Canadian news websites (which are mostly paywalled, with the notable exception of CBC. So, these users will necessarily, and perhaps out of no choice, get their ideas about a Canadian news story from what publishers outside Canada have said about it. What this means is that Canadians – including Canadian news publishers – will be left without a voice in telling our own stories to the world. It boggles my mind that we are okay with letting outsiders define us for the world.
There is a theory floating around on social media saying that this partial blackout / brown-out of news is in fact the real but unstated objective for this legislation. However, seeing the general level of ineptitude in the federal cabinet – starting from the Prime Minster all the way down – I find it hard to accept that any of them (or those around them) are capable of this Machiavellian but brilliant maneuver. However, there is a possibility that the masterminds of this idea are working behind the scenes. As you know, I stay away from expressing opinions unless I can back them up with facts and/or logic, therefore I reserve judgement on this matter.
As I have stated many times, the entire suite of internet-related legislation that has been enacted / is in the works will, as far as I can see, render Canada a backwater of the increasingly knowledge-based global community. Precisely at the time when the world is becoming more plugged in, more connected, and more knowledge-based, our government has chosen a path that takes us in the exact opposite direction. I fear that the damage that this suite of laws will cause will be so extensive and so deep that even if a future government repeals all these laws on day one, it may not be possible to regain the lost ground. When he took office, Prime Minister Trudeau famously declared, “Canada is back”. By the time he leaves office, we (and the world) will be saying, “Canada is backwaters”.
Independent voices are more important than ever in today’s Canada. I am happy to add my voice to the public discussions on current issues & policy, and grateful for all the encouraging response from my listeners & readers. I do not believe in a Paywall model, so will not make access to my content subject to a payment.
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