Facebook to Canada: Don’t Repeat Australia’s Link Tax Mistake

Canada has been growing increasingly anti-technology as of late. That has worried Facebook who called on Canada to not repeat Australia’s link tax mistake.

The Canadian government is increasingly growing cold towards technology as of late. Before, there was an openness towards network neutrality and making Canada an innovation leader of the world. That forward thinking has started to melt away when Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbeault, called for a link tax law be implemented in Canada. This call came at the behest of the big corporate publishing industry. They wants to return Canada to a world where the news gets sent to Canadians in newspaper and magazine form.

As those calls to crack down on innovation and the Internet grew stronger, Navdeep Bains, Canada’s innovation minister who championed network neutrality, stepped down. After a cabinet shuffle, Fran├žois-Philippe Champagne replaced Bains and actively joined the calls for a link tax. This basically meant that the one voice calling for innovation has left the debate altogether.

Now it seems that Canada is going back to the bad old days of 2005. Back then, the Canadian government only cared about how it can crack down on the Internet and innovation. It took a major groundswell of grassroots opposition to get the government to finally come to their senses. In more recent years, it finally seemed as though Canada was entering a sort of tech period of enlightenment. Unfortunately, that is increasingly looking like a mirage more than anything else.

The Canadian government is currently pushing for a link tax law. That link tax law is a concept where big publishing gets license fees from aggregators just for the privilege of linking to them. Aggregators already push traffic to these sites for free. As more links get posted on these aggregators, more users use those aggregators. In turn, it sends more traffic to those publishers who get more ad revenue and subscriptions. It’s a symbiotic relationship that has really aided the news industry in the new era of the Internet. Big publishing, however, decided to start getting greedy and are calling for government to force aggregators to pay fees for the privilege of sending them traffic. In short, big publishing wants their cake and eat it too.

Larger platforms like Facebook aren’t exactly big fans of all of this. Who would like another industry telling the government that they deserve a free ride on your dime? Now, Facebook is calling on the government to avoid repeating Australia’s mistake in implementing a link tax law. From the CBC:

However, Chan said it would be a mistake for Canada to try to follow Australia’s attempt to force tech giants to pay news media for their content shared on Facebook.

“Some of the ideas that we’ve seen discussed, such as the ones proposed in Australia where Facebook would be required to pay for links that are shared on our platform that we don’t control, is going to be unworkable, we wouldn’t be able to make that work because that’s just not how things get shared onto Facebook.”

Indeed, Australia is pushing for their own link tax law. After gutting their entire security industry by outlawing encryption, the country is continuing their assault on innovation and the Internet by pushing for a link tax law.

More recently, things started going increasingly sideways in the plan when Google said that it would start pulling their search service out of the country. This is because the Australian government is pushing for a version of the link tax law that many consider completely unworkable. That threat, of course, echo’s Facebook’s threat to pull out of Australia should they move ahead with the link tax law. While the Australian government is insistent that both will pay the link tax law, Google and Facebook aren’t actually obligated to operate in that country. Many are, of course, worried about how many services will cease to exist in the country if both follow through with their threats in the first place.

Obviously, the Australian model is a huge mistake and it is pretty much threatening to cause companies to think twice before operating in the country. The question is, does Canada want to follow in Australia’s footsteps and drive online business out of the country? That would, represent a complete reversal of the Liberal government when they first got elected. The “sunny ways” Trudeau government wanted to make Canada an innovation leader of the world. These latest efforts might do the exact opposite.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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