Bill C-18 Advocates Are Making Arguments That Threaten Free Speech & Economic Liberty

Should the government be entitled to both punish you for providing a service and punish you for not providing it?

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

That’s the position the Liberal government and Bill C-18 supporters have put Meta and Google in.

I want you to look at these two posts from Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge.

The first is from August 10th, in which St-Onge chastises Google & Meta for making money while news organizations struggle:

“While year after year we are seeing news organizations closing across the country, Google and Meta make huge profits in Canada.

It’s time they pay their fair share.”

The second is from August 1st, where St-Onge chastises Meta for complying with Bill C-18 by removing news links from their platforms:

What you’ll notice is that St-Onge – and by extension the Liberal government/C-18 backers – is making two contradictory arguments.

The first is that Google & Meta are supposedly ‘stealing’ profits that should have gone to news organizations, and that they must pay for that ‘theft.’

The second is that Meta is wrong to have decided to comply with Bill C-18 by ending what St-Onge and C-18 supporters claim is a theft.

Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is also making the latter argument, expressing that he will use government power to support those who want to compel Meta to continue providing their service:

“I am determined to use every tool at our disposal to ensure that Canadians can have access to reliable news – across all platforms. I fully support the complaint made to the Competition Bureau by Cnd media groups against Meta in their effort to promote a free & independent press.”

https://twitter.com/FP_Champagne/status/1689281360647606272

Of course, the Competition Bureau is overseen by Champagne’s ministry, rendering his commentary on the issue deeply inappropriate.

State-Run Social Networks

A key feature that distinguishes free countries like Canada from authoritarian states by Russia and China is the ability to use communication/social platforms free of government interference. China’s social media platforms are heavily-censored, with entire words and phrases blocked out based on the propaganda demands of the state. Russia is now punishing people for even the most subtle expressions of opposition to the war against Ukraine, and moving more in the direction of China’s totalitarian control over communication.

You would think that Canada would look at this and realize that the last thing we should want is a state-run social network. We should be moving in the opposite direction, doing the opposite of what China & Russia are doing and instead embracing freedom of speech and private enterprise.

Alas, as Bill C-18 continues to backfire, proponents of the legislation are making increasingly dangerous arguments in favour of it, arguments that would push our country in much more authoritarian direction.

Consider the implications if the Canadian government decides it simultaneously has the power to order Meta to pay for links to news content while also punishing Meta if it responds by removing links to news content. In effect, the government would be stating that it has the right to compel a business to operate in the exact manner the government demands.

The Prime Minister would thus – through government ministers – have the ability to intervene at a whim in all manner of business decisions.

After all, this won’t just end with Meta. In fact, Meta is big enough that it could easily exit the Canadian market entirely without taking much of a hit. But most Canadian businesses can’t do that, and the government would surely use their expanded intervention powers against a wider and wider swath of Canadian firms.

Bill C-18 is an assault on private property, free expression, voluntary association, and the very idea of freedom at a fundamental level.

It is a dangerous piece of legislation, and it has no place in this country.

Spencer Fernando

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