Good News – Bill C18 and Social Media

Various Print Media Logos

Anyone who spends any time at all on Facebook or Instagram is probably well aware by now that Canadian news has disappeared from these social media sites. Google may also follow suit in removing Canadian news sites from their news feeds. For those of us who have become accustom to getting our news from social media feeds, it has left a gaping hole. We can still see various international news, particularly US news, but our local news and Canadian national news is gone.

There’s a lot of blame going around some corners of the Internet. One just needs to poke around a bit on Facebook or look at some of the more conservative Reddit groups such as r/Canada_sub to find them (I’m not going to post links to the negative press about the press.)

  • “It is the Liberal’s fault.”
  • “<Expletive> Trudeau.”
  • “The legacy media deserves to die anyway.”
  • “Stop funding the useless Crown Corp media”

To say this is discouraging is an understatement. Solid journalism is an important part of a solid democracy.

What is Bill C18 Anyway?

The Online News Act is designed to compel social media giants to pay royalties for the news that they are hosting. Meta, the owners of Facebook and Google, have refused to pay. Google News is still displaying Canadian News, for now, but it is not clear yet if they will continue to do so.

Anyone who creates content gets paid for their work. Or should, anyway. Photographers get paid for their copyrighted work. Musicians get paid. Novelists and other written word authors get paid. Anyone who posts to Youtube will know that if you post music with your video, you have to be careful about copyright infringement. One of the reasons I usually do my own photography for my blogs and websites is to avoid accidentally infringing copyright. As a musician, when we recorded cover tunes, we registered and paid for the mechanical copy license at CMRRA.

Journalists deserve to get paid for their work.

Not only that, it is important to pay journalists for their work. If we don’t pay journalists we won’t have good journalism. We will get opinions. We will get poorly researched, unverified, and unreliable news. If we want good journalism, we need to pay for it in some way. As such, Canadian media outlets need to earn money to pay journalists. That’s normally done through subscriptions and advertising.

The only way that news media on social media makes any money is if the users click the link into the news site so their advertising is activated. It isn’t a very reliable model and, worse, as our scrolling habit increases (as an interesting-but–only-somewhat-related aside, check out what The Hidden Brain – The Paradox of Pleasure has to say about scrolling and dopamine), the less revenue the news outlets get.

All the revenue goes to Meta or Google.

And, despite the anti-Liberal, anti-Trudeau rhetoric, this problem isn’t unique to Canada. Australia has dealt with it (although Meta agreed to pay another giant industry, Murdoch, for their news) and the US themselves have been proposing similar laws.

The Chill

And so, over the last few weeks, Canadian news has disappeared from social media.

I actually tested this, by accident, this week.

Mark Buss, the editor of our regional newspaper, The Clipper wrote a dandy editorial this week on C18 (go to their page and click on the The Clipper Weekly and check out page 6.) I wrote a few thoughts on it and posted them, with a link to The Clipper, on both my personal Facebook feed and my Lac du Bonnet candidate feed and within seconds both posts simply disappeared.

Google and Facebook are like the tobacco companies from 30-40 years ago, who argued they shouldn’t be regulated, that they don’t cause harm and create enormous push back against such monitoring.

Mark T. Buss, The Clipper

I find that chilling.

Meta is interfering with my choice to freely share information. I think it is one thing to get snitty and block, say, CBC’s own page, but to take down references I post when expressing an idea is pretty low.

Far worse, in my mind, is the impact on small publishers like The Clipper. The Dawson Trail Dispatch. The Opasquia Times. The Dauphin Herald. Countless other local newspapers across the country. These are important local news sources that deal directly with issues that may never make it to the pages of large press organizations. The loss of exposure could be a major problem for them.

It is certainly a problem for getting reliable news.

The Good News

There is at least two silver linings here.

The first is that we can now say, unequivocally, that any news you see on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or any other social media is not reliable news. These sites, as far as we can be concerned, are there for entertainment and outreach. They are not news and should never be read as such.

The other is that it may prod us to think more consciously about how our news is generated and how we consume it.

Making Choices

First, you can download apps specific to the news agency. Choose a reliable source and use their app instead of social media. Not all news agencies, and certainly not smaller local and regional news agencies have apps.

So, more importantly and more effectively, we can make positive choices and support good journalism with a bit of money. If you can afford it pick a Canadian press provider or two and subscribe to them. Local and regional papers are quite inexpensive and can give you great insight into your community. National organization will dig deeper into big issues. If you feel compelled to go further, press agencies across the world are under similar pressure so you can take your subscription money further, if you’re inclined. But start at home.

I’m not one to ask people to do something I won’t do. So, here’s our household’s subscription list:

  • The Winnipeg Free Press
  • The Clipper (It was Mark’s editorial that prompted me to pick up the phone today and subscribe)
  • Canada’s National Observer
  • Geez Magazine (which used to be Winnipeg Based but is since moved south of the border)
  • The New York Times (US)
  • The Guardian (UK)

As an aside, I also highly recommend contributing to the The Conversation Canada. They’ve got a great blog and daily email.

Access to independent, high-quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to allow for better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversations.

The Conversation

Evaluating Media

I’ve mentioned this site before, over on our Green Party Provencher site, but there are some great tools out there for evaluating media.

Ad Fontes Media is one that I’ve really come to enjoy. They rank media based on left/right bias and on journalistic integrity, from very reliable to complete fantasy.

The site is strictly US based media. But once you poke around a bit you can probably figure out where Canadian media lies on the chart. If I had all the time in the world, I’d be volunteering to start a Canadian Ad Fontes operation.

I’ve taken their 8 week media bias course, too. It was really insightful. And I’m here to tell you that complaints about the “legacy media” is a complete lie.

There is good journalism out there. But it will only be reliable if we make the choice to invest in it.


  1. Good analyses. Helpful. Thanks Blair.

  2. Thanks for these excellent thoughtful perspectives and recommendations Blair, much appreciated!

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