big tech

Canada’s news cartel and social media link tax breaks an open internet and harms digital journalism

This week, I was invited on The News Forum’s “Daily,” a Canadian daily news show, to discuss the impact of C-18, which allows a media cartel to force social networks to pay a “link tax” for allowing articles on their platforms.

At the Consumer Choice Center, my colleague David Clement has previously written about this here and here, and it’s been a point of interest on Consumer Choice Radio for some time.

This is something that Australia already introduced in 2021, which I wrote about, and the US is currently discussing a similar proposal in the U.S. Senate, which my colleague Bill Wirtz also recently covered, as well as our fellow Dr. Kimberlee Josephson.

In the U.S., the bill is the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, spearheaded by competition foe Amy Klobuchar. A version in California, the California Journalism Preservation Act, is in committee in the State Senate, and it’s expected that Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign it.

The principal idea of this plan — no matter the country or language — is that tech companies are eating traditional media’s lunch. To “level the playing field,” tech firms must pay traditional media each time a story (or link) is shared on their platform. It looks like it’s Rupert Murdoch vs. Mark Zuckerberg, or pick your legally media titan vs. tech start-up CEO. But realistically, it’s government officials, working with legacy media outlets, versus YOU, the consumer.

This is, of course, not just an attack on free speech and bad public policy, but it also represents a fundamental shift in how we view the democratic nature of the Internet.

News outlets need social media to share stories, find their audiences, and to continue to support them. At the same time, it’s up to news outlets to come up with innovative models to thrive and compete. In Canada, like in many European countries, government subsidies have taken the place of real innovation.

But across the internet, platforms such as Substack, Patreon, Locals.com, YouTube, and now even Twitter are allowing individuals and media teams to offer up news products that consumers genuinely enjoy.

At the Consumer Choice Center, we advocate for consumers who embrace innovation, competition, and a wide variety of choice. New models of creative destruction are something we celebrate, and we as consumers benefit every step of the way.

We will continue to push back against the idea of news cartels, link taxes, or other unfair regulatory practices that seek to prop up one industry at the expense of another. Not only is it wrong, a waste of funds, and impractical, but it also seriously diminishes our ability to freely choose our chosen media as consumers.

That’s at least one thing worth fighting for.

Ottawa’s Concerning Escalation Against Big Tech Threatens Citizen Engagement

Ottawa, ON – This week Canada’s Heritage Committee moved forward a Liberal motion that will require tech companies like Alphabet (Google) and Meta (Facebook) to hand over their internal and external correspondence in regards to Ottawa’s Bill C-18, which would require these companies for pay publishers when news links are posted on their platform.

In response, the Consumer Choice Center’s Toronto based North American Affairs Manager David Clement stated: “C-18 is a big mistake on the part of Ottawa. Not only does the bill have the relationship between tech platforms and publishers backwards, sharing links on social media generates free ad revenue for publishers through page visits, the Bill now threatens Canadian’s access to news. To make matters worse, Ottawa’s demands for all internal and external correspondence sets a chilling precedent for any NGO, union, trade association or charity that opposes a piece of legislation.

“If Ottawa proceeds in demanding internal and external email correspondence from these companies, it would be a significant step backwards for citizen engagement, which is a key part of Canadian democracy. If this precedent is set, a future government could simply deem any non-governmental opposition to a bill as “subversive” and require the disclosure of private emails. If a major trade union opposed a piece of labour reform, a future government could shake the union down by forcing the union to hand over their internal emails with members, their external emails with legal counsel, their emails with members of the public, and even their correspondence with journalists,” states Clement.

“It would appear as though the Liberal party is failing to anticipate the precedents they are setting today can and will be used by their political opponents tomorrow. A future Conservative government could in theory use this precedent to squash opposition from patient advocacy groups, environmental NGOs, or labour unions. A future NDP government could use this precedent to stifle dissent from business associations, taxpayer advocacy groups, and those who represent the voices of small businesses. This is a clear case of incredible government overreach, one that could fundamentally shift the nature of political engagement in Canada for the worse,” concluded Clement.

***CCC North American Affairs Manager David Clement is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries to david@consumerchoicecenter.org.***

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