Canada is poised to take on Facebook, following the example set by Australia, which began a war with the tech giant when the country’s publishers backed proposed legislation demanding payment for their content.
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault condemned Facebook’s actions as “highly irresponsible” last week when the social media giant removed all Australian news content from its sites in retaliation.
Guilbeault warned that Canada would be next in making sure Facebook paid for news content from Canadian publishers. Guilbeault is charged with drafting legislation in the next few months that would require Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay up.
“Canada is at the forefront of this battle … we are really among the first group of countries around the world that are doing this,” Guilbeault told reporters.
Guilbeault said he recently met with government ministers from Australia, Finland, France and Germany to hammer out a common front with respect to Google and Facebook, the Globe and Mail reported.
“It was the first ministerial meeting where we jointly started talking about what we want to do together regarding web giants, including fair compensation for media. We believe that there’s real strength in unity on that,” he said, adding that the growing coalition of countries opposed to Facebook and Google could soon reach 15. “I’m a bit curious to see what Facebook’s response will be. Is Facebook going to cut ties with Germany, with France, with Canada, with Australia and other countries that will join? At a certain point, Facebook’s position will be completely untenable.”
In Canada, critics of the social media giants welcomed the country’s stand with regard to the tech giants. Last week, Canadian lawmaker Alexandre Boulerice introduced a motion in the House of Commons condemning Facebook’s actions, saying that “Facebook’s intimidation” has no place in a democracy.
“We are seeing a very significant turning point in challenging the monopoly that big tech is wielding,” said Megan Boley, a professor of media studies at the University of Toronto in an interview with The Post. “Right now, they are deciding what is truth for the whole world. What’s exciting is that this is an issue that countries can unite on and hold Facebook and Google accountable.”
But others took to Twitter to blast Guilbeault’s plan. “If you force companies to pay for every link they make to another site you are in essence breaking the internet,” tweeted @mattolan. “This hurts Canadian media; it doesn’t help it. This is a very poorly thought out plan.”
Last year, Canadian publishers sought government action against the tech giants, warning that the country could lose hundreds of print journalism jobs. Following the Australian approach would allow Canada’s publishers to recoup nearly $500 million. That approach would require the tech giants to reach deals to pay news outlets whose links to stories drive users to their sites.
“We aren’t able to provide a reaction to proposed legislation until we have seen a draft,” said Kevin Chan, Global Director and Head of Public Policy, Facebook Canada, in a statement. “We believe there are other options to support news in Canada that will more fairly benefit publishers of all sizes and recognize the value that platforms bring to news organizations. We stand ready to collaborate on these complex issues.”