An information and technology expert says Bill C-18 is the wrong approach to channel cashflow back into Canadian journalism.
Brett Caraway, an associate professor of information and technology, told True North it’s senseless to ask tech giants like Facebook to pay when users hyperlink to Canadian journalism.
“I want to go in front of Parliament and ask, ‘Do you guys even know how the internet works?’” the University of Toronto professor said.
Caraway understands the concern parliamentarians may have about supporting journalism, but said the bill is a terrible approach.
“[This] is terrifying to me. That’s not how you fix this problem.”
Bill C-18 would charge websites like Facebook and Instagram when Canadian news content is shared on the platform.
The stated goal is to create revenue for Canadian journalism, which has seen a decline in advertising dollars over the past 30 years.
Google and Meta opposed the legislation, signalling they would avoid the fee by blocking Canadian users from seeing news content.
As Bill C-18 stands, many believe the conflict between Parliament and tech giants is coming to a head.
Michael Geist, who serves as the research chair of Internet law at the University of Ottawa, said Canadians may soon see consequences from Parliament’s bill.
“At this stage, I think Meta is very likely to block news sharing,” Geist told True North. “Google is a harder call. I could see them stopping the Google News service but continuing to index and link in general search.”
Caraway disagreed with recent claims that said Meta and Google are attempting to intimidate Parliament.
“They’re actually doing what [the] bill says they should do,” said Caraway. “They either need to pay for linking to the content, or not link to it.”
“They’re just responding like any business would.”
Caraway told True North he believes a “public fund” model is more appropriate to support Canadian journalism, because it wouldn’t encroach on the fundamental offer of the internet: hyperlinking.
A public fund plan would see companies like Meta earmark funds for local journalism initiatives.