Here’s just a little context to how thuggishly Meta (Facebook) and Google are conducting themselves in Canada.
In response to new Canadian legislation designed to divert roughly $300 million a year into supporting journalism, both companies have announced bans on search and sharing of Canadian news on their sites.
What the hell kind of people act this way? These are mob tactics. “Nice little newspaper you’ve got there — be a shame if something happened to it.”
In case $300 million sounds like a lot of money, or that the Canadian government is being draconian, consider this: In 2021, Google and Facebook extracted almost $10 billion in ad revenue from this country. That’s according to a report by the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project.
So we’re talking three per cent here. For companies that are not taxed in Canada on this income, as far as I’ve been able to determine.
In one year.
By contrast, the business of journalism in Canada is on its knees. According to available public financial statements, Postmedia and Torstar have cut over $600 million from their annual payrolls in the last dozen years. Bell Media just slashed 1,300 jobs and closed six radio stations.
Those journalists pay taxes in Canada. They support schools and hospitals and pensions. They report on child care, cancer, municipal councils and climate. They deliver verified, fact-checked information to voters.
Tech giants are using mob tactics to strangle Canadian media. @garossino writes for @natobserver #C-18 #journalism #cdnpoli #google
They volunteer on kids’ sports teams and in soup kitchens. They shop in local businesses. They live here. Their money stays here. They’re Canadians.
Journalism holds the lifeblood of democracy, and it’s bleeding out in the street. While we squabble about which ambulance to take, foreign tech behemoths are chasing it down to bludgeon it more, in case it’s not dead yet.
And we’re supposed to cave to this?
Make no mistake, this attack is a proxy fight by these tech giants. A very similar bill, the California Journalism Preservation Act is making its progress toward passage in that state with bipartisan support. It’s facing similar threats, no doubt because legislatures everywhere will do the same.
In other words, the world is watching how we respond.
This is going to be painful, but we can’t back down. Every time we’ve ceded ground to social media giants, it’s come back to bite us. We have more power than we think in this fight.
Given all the damage they’ve done — all the lies and rage and misinformation they’ve spread for traffic and money — they should count their blessings that they’re not facing a licensing surcharge that functions like a tax on tobacco. Meanwhile, we can all switch to Bing or one of the other good search alternatives to Google.
If this were up to me, I’d have three words about Facebook and Google:
Hit. Them. Harder.