Canada is a good deal more “progressive” than the US. That means it’s a great ongoing case study of how bad the policies under this school of thought tend to fail when put into practice.
Recently, the country passed Bill C-18, a protectionist piece of legislation meant to prop up dying media brands and seize more control of social media platforms. The bill essentially says that social media companies must give news publishers a certain payment rate when users visit their links shared on the platforms, or remove the links altogether.
Though the legislation doesn’t go into effect until later this year, Meta (Facebook) went ahead and complied with the law—removing all news-related links and content by Canadian publishers. This was a predictable result. News outlets benefit tremendously from social media outlets and the ability to freely advertise their products to the multi-millions who use them. The social media companies, however, earn their revenues through a mix of advertisers, selling data, and overall, time spent on their platforms.
As it turns out, news—and specifically political news—isn’t their main money maker. In fact, many advertisers are less willing to run their products alongside divisive content, and politics these days certainly falls in that camp.
Now, as wildfires are forcing tens of thousands of Canadians from their homes, many are complaining about their inability to access news and information on their given platforms of choice.
Public policies can always have unintended consequences, which is why we should have as few laws as possible and only those needed to protect people’s person or property. When a government uses its power beyond those objectives, they always get people harmed, make things more expensive or more difficult, or stagnate innovation.
While politicians claim they are merely looking out for journalists with this kind of legislation, nothing could be further from the truth. Per usual, the reasons they give for public policies and the names they slap on their bills often have little to do with their true intent.
In reality, the mainstream media is dying a quick and brutal death. People no longer trust these institutions—and for good reason. They also prefer to get their news from video versus articles, and they tend to want it from influencers and independent journalists they trust rather than from organizations. They also like to get it on social media, gathering information from lots of news sources instead of paying for a subscription to one or two.
This is a good thing. The democratization of information has made it impossible for the government, or the “experts,” or the “journalists” with Ivy League degrees to control the official narrative and shout down detractors. It has also made it much easier for independent media, journalists, and commentators to compete in the marketplace of ideas. But as the book, “Who Moved My Cheese” points out, when the market changes and old revenue streams dry up, many will starve to death trying to cling to the old ways of doing things rather than innovate and change their approach.
That’s the mainstream media today. They could and should be innovating, but instead they’re working in cahoots with the government to try to regulate their new competitors out of business and force old business models to work for them.
Independent media outlets don’t need this kind of legislation. Instead, they benefit greatly from being able to promote links to their articles on social media, driving traffic, and earning ad revenue both from the clicks and from in-stream ads on their video content. It’s these producers’ laws like Bill-18 hurt the most. Without the ability to promote on social media, they cannot let new audiences know they exist, much less charge subscription fees for their content.
And that’s the real reason traditional news publishers are teaming up with the government to pass laws like this. They want to limit their competition and force consumers to subscribe to them and them alone, while the government wants more control—of everything.
But now, it’s Canadians who are paying the price for their government’s corrupt and moronic practices. And per usual, the politicians are trying to shift the blame.
Can someone explain to me why it’s “greedy” for Facebook to make money and maximize its profits, but it isn’t greedy for these news publishers to use the government to shut down their competition and force a company to pay them? A little reminder, no one has a right to the property of someone else—whether that property be physical or virtual. These news publishers are not entitled to post on Facebook at all, much less to demand they be paid for posting there.
All of these people frankly got what was coming to them, but again, it is the rank and file person in Canada who is currently suffering due to their corruption.
And it’s important to know that a group of bipartisan senators is trying to pass the same kind of legislation in the US as we speak. Known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (those bill titles just get more ridiculous by the day), the JCPA is indistinguishable from Bill-18 in Canada.
It’s led by Senator Karen Amy Klobuchar, and while we expect any legislation pushed by her to be awful, we wouldn’t expect to find so many Republicans signing onto it. She’s joined by Senators John Kennedy, Cynthia Lummis, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, John Thune, and Roger Wicker on the Right as well as Senators Joe Manchin, Cory Booker, Sheldon Whitehouse, Diane Feinstein, Mazie Hirono, Richard Blumenthal, and Dick Durbin on the Left.
No one can support such policies and claim to be a capitalist. Nor can they credibly claim to be supporters of a free press.
This is plain old protectionism, cronyism, and corruption presented per usual under the guise of protecting competition. It’s bogus, and we don’t have to look far at all to see how it would play out.
Hannah is a consultant for Netchoice, which works on these issues.