NP View: Conservatives closing in on biased Facebook

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In much of the world, there seems to be a general consensus, particularly among conservatives, that Facebook has a lot to answer for, for suppressing right-wing voices and wrecking the business model on which news outlets reputable companies once relied on to fund quality journalism.

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Republicans in the United States understand this, which is why Congress spent two days grill its CEOMark Zuckerberg on his company’s alleged anti-conservative bias and inappropriate use of personal information for political advertising in 2018. Australian conservatives understand this, which is why the centre-right Liberal government has passed a groundbreaking law last year that requires big tech companies to negotiate fair deals with news publishers nationwide for the right to reuse their content.

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Only Canadian Conservatives seem to have the wrong impression that social networking site owner Meta needs to be defended, like we seen on friday during the heritage committee hearings in Bill C-18, which proposes a Canadian version of Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code.

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Friday’s hearings gave MPs an opportunity to question two Meta executives. Instead of using this as an opportunity to inquire about the company’s past behavior or find constructive ways to improve the bill, the Conservatives threw them a series of softball questions and tried to prevent others from asking difficult questions.

Alberta MP Rachael Thomas began to turn the committee into a circus by asking a series of leading questions, such as, “How is this legislation harming the internet?” Needless to say, it wasn’t too difficult for Meta Public Policy Manager Kevin Chan to knock this one out of the park. Later in the proceedings, Thomas raised successive points of order and began harassing the president to prevent a witness from being questioned.

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Next from the opposition benches was Marilyn Gladu, who warned of “unintended negative consequences like 22 million Canadians whose content is blocked by Meta.” She was referring to Facebook’s unseemly decision to temporarily block all news content from its network in Australia in February 2021 to protest against the new law.

This was not an “unintended consequence”, but a petty decision by the company to try to punish Australian social media users – and it was one that had many unintended consequences itself, including preventing people from accessing information from government health services. and the National Weather Service.

Gladu suggested that the legislation “could ultimately force Canadians to pay for news links to be shared” on Facebook. Despite the fact that it didn’t happen in Australia and Chan said “I honestly don’t know” if that would be a possibility, Gladu asked the next witness if “charging people for a link would destroy sort of the whole openness of the Internet?”

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MP Kevin Waugh tried to argue that most of the news outlets that have been forced to close were owned by big publishers – which he accused of wanting to “be down on C-18” – and said that the Minister of Heritage had ignored all the new publications that have taken hold in recent years.

What he failed to say is that the vast majority of the “independent organizations” he referred to do not provide the local news coverage that was once provided by local newspapers. Instead, many provide national opinion content that relies heavily on original reporting by major media companies, and few live up to the journalistic standards that Canadians expect. are expecting.

The Conservatives on the committee also completely ignored the intellectual property rights of Canadian publishers and the fact that big tech companies have been profiting from their intellectual property for years. This is a dramatic turnaround for a party that, under the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, spent a great deal of time and energy pushing through the Copyright Modernization Act, which great strides in modernizing this country’s outdated intellectual property protections.

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While we understand that opposition parties have a reflexive instinct to oppose any measure proposed by the governing party, the Conservative members of the committee have done a disservice to their constituents and to Canadian democracy as a whole. giving far too much deference to a company using scare tactics to try to evade its obligations to the media companies whose revenue it has spent years siphoning off.

It certainly makes for strange bedfellows for conservatives to approach a company that has a history of censoring conservative opinion leaders, and even news stories that would be troubling to liberal politicians.

Facebook banned or censored a long list of conservatives, but in its 2020 testimony before the US Congress, Zuckerberg couldn’t name a single Liberal who had been targeted. Earlier this year he admitted on Joe Rogan’s podcast that Facebook deleted the Hunter Biden laptop story, which turned out to be completely legit.

If these are the kind of friends the Conservatives are trying to make, who needs enemies?

national post

  1. A 3D printed Facebook logo is placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

    Michael Taube: Should the Conservatives defend social media platforms like Facebook?

  2. Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada Pierre Poilievre delivers remarks on the death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 15, 2022. REUTERS/Blair Gable

    Brian Lilley: Facebook hates conservatives, so why is Poilievre’s team playing Mark Zuckerberg’s defense?

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