Poilievre compares Bill C-18 to dystopian novel '1984'

According to the Angus Reid Institute, half (49%) of Canadians are fearful of permanent censorship of the news, urging the federal government to 'back down,' while 26% want them to 'stand firm.'

Poilievre compares Bill C-18 to dystopian novel '1984'
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Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre is wasting no time condemning Bill C-18 in the aftermath of Meta censoring Canadian news for Canadian users on Facebook and Instagram.

On Tuesday, Meta began suspending news links to Canadian news stories in protest over Parliament's passage of the Online News Act.

The changes "start today and will be implemented for all people accessing Facebook and Instagram over {...] the next few weeks," it said.

When asked about the fallout of the legislation, Poilievre replied: "I think it is like 1984."

"You have a Prime Minister passing a law to make news articles disappear from the internet. Who would have ever imagined that the federal government would pass laws banning people from effectively seeing the news in Canada?" he said. 

"Whether it's Big Tech or Trudeau's big government, censorship is always wrong everywhere."

On June 1, Facebook restricted access to news on its platform for 1.1 million Canadians — a move considered "pure intimidation tactics" by the federal government.

Heritage Canada repeatedly pledged to consult Canadians so they can "express themselves on the matter."

According to the Angus Reid Institute, half (49%) of Canadians are fearful of permanent censorship, urging the federal government to "back down," while 26% want them to "stand firm."

Parliament on June 22 passed the contentious bill to compel Meta and Google to pay Canadian publishers a portion of advertising revenues generated by links to news stories.

On July 10, Heritage Canada said work is ongoing to determine how, when and which portions of Bill C-18 they will implement through stakeholder and public consultations. The feds intend to fully implement the bill by the end of the year.

While Heritage Canada clarified that Meta and Google might be exempt from signing compulsory revenue-sharing agreements with publications for striking voluntary deals at their discretion, both must pay 35% of news expenditures for hundreds of media outlets upon completion of the regulatory process.

According to Blacklock's Reporter, the CBC is the largest beneficiary of the Act by federal estimate. 

Since 2019, Parliament has financed outlets deemed "qualified" by the Canada Revenue Agency worth up to 25% of the annual payroll or $13,750 per newsroom employee. Canadian taxpayers annually subsidize the media at $595 million — in addition to the $1.2 billion comprising 70% of the state broadcaster's budget. 

However, Meta outright clarified their opposition to Bill C-18 at parliamentary committee hearings. "We have been transparent," they said.

Rachel Curran, Meta's Canadian head of public policy, forewarned the company would move towards a permanent censor of Canadian news for Canadian users on its platforms.

"We wish we weren't here, but we are here, and there is nothing at this point that [will] alter that trajectory," she said.

"If [Meta] truly believes that news has no value, they can say so at the negotiating table," said Heritage Canada. 

"Threats to pull news instead of complying with the laws in our country only highlight the power that platforms hold over news organizations, both big and small."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also accused the tech giant of not "accepting responsibility towards our democracies" in refusing to subsidize local news and independent journalism.

"The world has changed, and the same way we're adapting to platforms, well, the platforms also have to adapt to the new reality," said then-Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez in an interview last month.

The parent company to Bell reportedly axed 1,300 jobs in July as a cost-cutting measure to "significantly adapt" how it delivers the news.

As of 2008, nearly 500 newsrooms in Canada have closed, according to Rodriguez. The media bailout program is set to expire on March 31, 2024.

Should Meta maintain its censorship of Canadian news, Rodriguez said Parliament would ensure newsrooms have resources beyond the existing funding programs and tax credits.

"We have to make sure that newsrooms are open, that [journalists] can do their job, and [they] have the resources necessary," he said.

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