Bill C-18 Supporters Launching Personal Attacks on Critics Who Warned of Consequences

The consequences of Bill C-18 are happening exactly as critics have warned. Critics are now taking out their frustrations on those critics.

Critics of Bill C-18 have long warned about the consequences of Bill C-18. The chief criticism is that if this bill passes, it would incentivize the platforms to just drop news links altogether on their platforms. The consequences of that would be that numerous news websites would not only not get the money they thought they would get from so-called “deals”, but also lose out on a huge amount of traffic to their site as well, representing a massive loss in revenue for the sector. The further fallout of that is that platforms would be motivated to pull out of existing deals as well, inflicting further damage onto the sector in the process.

Well, the legislation did pass despite the warnings from critics and platforms alike. Meta announced that they will be ending support for Canadian news links and dropping any content scoped into the legislation. Later, Google similarly announced that they would be dropping news links and any content scoped into the bill from their suite of services as well. Additionally, Meta began pulling out of news deals on top of it all.

In short, within days of the bills passage, a majority of the immediate things that critics warned would happen have already come true. In this situation, all critics like us can do is sit back and watch the chaos and destruction sweep across the news sector. Meta and Google have said that the blocking would happen when the legislation takes effect which will happen sometime in the next six months. So, while there is seemingly this period of time between the announcement of what will happen and the actual action, there seems to be little that can be done to reverse this seemingly inevitable disaster that’s about to unfold in this country.

Some supporters have been in denial that this is really happening. Some have taken the stance that this is all just a negotiating tactic and that the platforms would never really carry through with this – this despite the platforms basically saying that it will happen. Others have taken to angrily typing out attack pieces, venting their frustrations in news articles. However, some have begun launching personal attacks against those who accurately predicted that this would all happen.

Now, ordinarily, these personal attacks wouldn’t be worthy of a whole separate news article. Supporters have accused people like me of being a paid shill for Google in the past already. Some have even gone so far as to say people like me are traitors to our own country for daring to speak out against the legislation – all for the crime of, uh, being correct. However, the recent volley of personal attacks did come mixed in with a novel criticism that is worth talking about and explaining why it’s… not a valid counter argument.

The criticism is this: Bill C-18 has nothing to do with links to news websites on the platforms. I know, I hear you laughing already, but this is the criticism some are trying anyway. This mixed in with the personal attacks that the experts haven’t read the bill or that those saying this are not real experts. What is so misleading about this line of attack is that there is no direct reference to a “link” in the bill, therefore critics haven’t read the bill and are just wrong about it. Ironically, this criticism depends on the reader not reading the bill at all and won’t do their research to verify that the claim is accurate or not. Instead, it preys on the user simply doing a CTRL+F search for link and turning up nothing and assuming the supporter is correct. This is extremely manipulative of users which is why it was actually worthy of writing a separate article to debunk this myth.

So, first of all, let’s replicate the steps that could very easily mislead users. First, users could be provided with the actual text of the legislation or they are asked to Google it themselves. I’ll spare you the work and provide you with the link to the text of the bill. If you do a CTRL+F search for “link”, the word search will, indeed, result in no results found. For a lot of users, that will be the end of the research and they will immediately become confused. However, to those of us who have actually read the bill from beginning to end, it will immediately become apparent what is wrong with this argument.

Indeed, the legislation provides the following text under Section 2 (in this case, this is Section 2(2) of the bill:

Making available of news content

(2) For the purposes of this Act, news content is made available if

(a) the news content, or any portion of it, is reproduced; or

(b) access to the news content, or any portion of it, is facilitated by any means, including an index, aggregation or ranking of news content.

The legislation reworks the language to say that a link is “making available” and this terminology is certainly sprinkled throughout the legislation. A link specifically would very easily qualify as “access to the news content”. A user clicks on the link provided and is immediately taken to the news content in question. Of course, this section is actually much more broad. Simply naming a news source by name alone, let alone indexing that source in any way or even providing a list qualifies as “making available”.

Now, on what planet simple writing the following is making news content available is anyone’s guess:

1. CBC
2. CTV
3. Global News

If I was designated under the Act, that makes me a dirty thief and I should be paying those publishers for repurposing their hard work that I have stolen for free. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I digress, however.

Now, some people out there might insist that this is just my interpretation. What if I’m wrong? Where can one verify that this is an accurate assessment? Well, if you don’t believe me, then maybe take the word of Thomas Owen Ripley, a government architect of this legislation. During his senate hearing, Ripley admitted that if platforms drop news links on their services, then they would no longer have to pay for deals because they have exited the market. So, not only is linking absolutely in the bill, but it is also the linchpin that, in the governments mind, holding this whole legislation together in the first place.

So, the myth has problems on two fronts: not only the text of the bill itself, but also the interpretation of the Canadian government to boot: busted on two fronts.

Some, at this point, might be asking me to name names and who would be crazy enough to come up with this line of thinking in the first place. I won’t be naming names because, unlike many of the supporters of the legislation, critics like us are more interested in the facts. This person, at the moment, won’t be hard to find, admittedly, but I’m not one for contributing to the potential for ganging up on people. If you see this myth out in the wild, know that you can confidently say that this myth has already been busted.

The myth itself seems to be a mutation of another myth that has long been debunked. That myth is that platforms scrape content from news publishers and republish whole articles without permission, slap ads on it, and profit off of it afterwards. As stated multiple times over now, that doesn’t happen. There has been no evidence put forward that this is actually happening. Further, if this was well and truly what has been happening, then there is already a law in place that guards against it. That is the Copyright Act. A snippet, thumbnail, and a link is so obviously fair dealing, it is laughable to think otherwise.

If, however, the platforms are republishing whole articles without permission and profiting off of it, then the publishers can file a copyright infringement lawsuit against the platforms. They can seek statutory damages because that would, in fact, be a clear cut violation of copyright law – not to mention they would get a massive payday to boot. If that wasn’t enough, the publishers can also file a lawsuit in the United States and seek statutory damages under the much reviled Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA. Over top of that, the publishers can also submit a DMCA takedown notice against the platforms as well should that sort of thing be happening.

So, no additional legislation was ever even required in the first place. File a lawsuit against the platforms and let the legal process take its course if the claims are accurate. The problem is, the publishers actively choose not to go this rout. Why? Because they know that the claims of the platforms republishing whole article and profiting off of it is absolutely false and a case brought against the platforms would never stand up in court.

At any rate, the supporters of Bill C-18 have not given up their efforts to gaslight – even as the outcome of this bill seems to be a sure thing. Consider this myth thoroughly and fully busted.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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