Bill C-18 Is Accomplishing Exactly What The Liberals Wanted: Weakening The Free Flow Of Information In Canada

Why would the Liberals be given the benefit of the doubt – yet another appeal to incompetence – when C-18 represents an obvious continuation of their efforts to narrow the realm of discussion and debate in this country?

In a move that should surprise nobody – given the fact that Meta promised to take this exact action if Bill C-18 passed – the company is ending news sharing on Facebook and Instagram in Canada. Here’s their full announcement:

“Today, we are confirming that news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada prior to the Online News Act (Bill C-18) taking effect.

We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18, passed today in Parliament, content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada.

Earlier this month, we announced that we were conducting product tests to help us build an effective product solution to end news availability as a result of C-18. These tests are ongoing and currently impact a small percentage of users in Canada.

The changes affecting news content will not otherwise impact Meta’s products and services in Canada. We want to assure the millions of Canadians on our platforms that they will always be able to connect with friends and family, grow their businesses and support their local communities.

We will continue to combat misinformation and have built the largest global fact-checking network of any platform by partnering with more than 90 independent fact-checking organisations around the world who review and rate viral misinformation in more than 60 languages globally. Fact-checking will continue with respect to content that remains available in Canada.”

If the Liberal government claims they are surprised by this action, they are lying. Here’s what Meta said on June 1st of 2023:

“As we have shared, content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will not be available to people accessing Facebook and Instagram in Canada if Bill C-18, the Online News Act, is passed into law. As we prepare to comply with the legislation, we are announcing today that we will begin tests on both platforms that will limit some users and publishers from viewing or sharing some news content in Canada.”

The disastrous Online News Act

The Liberals claim the Online News Act is about making ‘the big social media companies’ pay for content they are supposedly ‘stealing’ from publishers.

To put it politely, that is a patently absurd notion.

When someone posts a link on Facebook, nothing is being stolen. The platform to share the link wouldn’t exist without Facebook having provided it. Facebook doesn’t charge publishers for the provision of the platform. Posting on the platform brings more traffic – and thus more revenue – to those who use it.

To claim that any part of that process is ‘stealing’ is simply false.

So, what is the Online News Act really about?

First and foremost, it’s about the fact that online social media platforms have made it easier for Canadians to question the government and share information. It reduces the power of the government, because even when the government bails out media outlets, independent outlets can still thrive on social media. This creates an avenue for Canadians to – if they choose – bypass government narratives.

Now, an honest government should actually support this. A government that believes in freedom of speech, and believes in true ‘Liberal Democratic’ values as we once understood them would be happy to see a proliferation of media outlets and perspectives thriving online. While there are obvious downsides to this – the ability for extreme groups and vile opinions to be more easily shared – those downsides are outweighed by the fact that information flows much more freely because of social media, and because more discussion – rather than less discussion – is how we arrive at the truth over time.

But for a governmetn that has a penchant for lying – like the Liberal government does – the free flow of information is seen as a threat to their political power.

Thus, by driving Meta to end news sharing in Canada, C-18 achieves the Liberal government goal of narrowing the bounds of free speech. It will also weaken many independent news outlets, and weaken establishment outlets. But, since the Liberals are throwing money at established outlets, this results in a net gain of power for outlets dependent on government money and a net loss of power for independent media – exactly what the Liberals want.

While some Liberals are celebrating, this is not a good day for our country, a point well-made by Michael Geist:

“Seeing some suggest that somehow Facebook blocking news sharing due to Bill C-18 is a good thing. It’s not. It will disproportionately hurt smaller and independent media outlets and leave the field to poorer quality sources. Worst of all: it was totally predictable and avoidable.”

Incompetence again?

Pablo Rodriguez – minister of Canadian Heritage – is feigning ignorance, as if this is all a big surprise:

“Facebook knows very well that they have no obligations under the act right now. Following Royal Assent of Bill #C18, the Government will engage in a regulatory and implementation process.

If the Government can’t stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?”

This all sounds like the defence the Liberals have used to justify their repeated failings on national security and China’s election interference. They want you to believe that they couldn’t have done anything wrong on purpose, and that they are just incompetent.

Yet, the warnings of what would happen if they passed C-18 without changes were so clear, and the end of news sharing on Facebook in Canada fits so well into the long-term goals of the Liberals that the incompetence defence doesn’t hold up.

This is what they wanted.

They either would have gotten Meta to ‘back down’ (which would have played well in Quebec), or they get to weaken the independent outlets that have been galvanizing opposition to their actions. It’s a win-win for the Liberals.

But of course, the rest of us lose out here.

Canada is now an outlier among most democratic nations with our access to news on a major platform – part of the essential digital public square – has been seriously constrained. The federal government doesn’t get an ‘incompetence’ pass on this one. They have shown their hostility to free expression and the free flow of information time and time again.

If we want to preserve our liberty and our democratic way of life, we must speak out against this legislation and support the independent outlets that could be most impacted.

I encourage you to contact your MP and the Senators in your province and encourage them to pressure the government to make the necessary changes to C-18 (such as removing the demand of payment for links). And, if you are able, I encourage you to make a financial contribution to this website. It is essential that we don’t allow the Liberals to get away with their efforts to weaken those voices who hold them accountable.

Spencer Fernando

Photo – YouTube


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