FreezeNet Podcast: July 2023: Appetite for Self Destruction

In the 57th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Appetite for Self Destruction”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered in July 2023.

Welcome to the public version of the FreezeNet Official Podcast for July, 2023.  This month’s episode is entitled “Appetite for Self Destruction” after the media’s efforts to basically blow themselves up with Bill C-18.

This episode also covers the government side of things as well as finishing off the special coverage of the Bill C-18 senate hearings.  We also cover the JCPA as well as a TikToker getting upset at ITV News in Britain.

In addition to that, we also cover all the usual music and video game reviews.  All of this and more on this month’s episode!

You can check out our official podcast on Spotify. Alternatively, you can take a listen below:

What follows is a transcript of this month’s episode.


Appetite for Self-Destruction

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson.  Welcome to episode 57 of the Freezenet official podcast for July, 2023.  Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Government bargains, but platforms set to end support for Canadian news links in Canada

Canadian media companies brace for the consequences of their actions as support for news links set to end

… and we wrap up our special coverage of the Bill C-18 senate hearing special.

Top Stories

Before I get into the top stories, I wanted to mention that I did release another vlog this month.  It was vastly different than what I normally post, but I thought it was worth talking about.  In a nutshell, I was at a Subway restaurant and I witnessed what looked like an extremely crummy day for one of the employees.  So, I did what I could to make her day less crummy.  It was complete chance that I happened to be there and I am glad I was able to make someones bad day take a quick turn for the better.  You can check out the video where I talk about it on the website or on YouTube.

Now to the top stories.

The link tax situation in Canada is looking dire right now.  Already, Meta announced that it will be dropping Canadian news links in Canada in response to the link tax law.  Bill C-18 was already passed into law and is now known as the Online News Act.  All of the predictions of this turning out bad for the Canadian news sector were seemingly destined to come true.  All of this despite the insistence from the mainstream media and supporters insisting that things will just magically work out in the end.  This because they have believing hard enough and magical thinking on their side.

Well, the Canadian government was attempting to do a little bit more than magical thinking for once.  They wound up holding last ditch talks with both Meta and Google.  This in an apparent effort to try and salvage the situation.

It didn’t take long for word to come down that those talks failed.  Meta responded by saying that they weren’t even in talks with the government and said that they are still moving forward with blocking Canadian news links in Canada.  As word came down that talks fell through, the Canadian government said that all options are on the table.  Specifically, they were contemplating a massive news media bailout.

Shortly after that, Google announced that it would be dropping news links in Canada as well.  The announcement signalled that the talks by the Canadian government has fully collapsed.  While observers were decidedly not surprised by this outcome, Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez, said he was surprised by the announcement.  Arguably, he is probably one of the only people in this entire debate that could possibly be surprised by this.  This after how he is seemingly barely aware of his own surroundings at the best of times.

Google, in making this announcement, offered details of what specifically will be blocked from their services.  Essentially, any content that is considered eligible for compensation in the legislation will be subject to such blocks.  The details mirrors what Meta has said when they announced that they will be blocking Canadian news links in Canada.  If it’s captured in the Online News Act, it’s out of Googles services period.  This includes search and Google News Showcase.

The fallout continued shortly after that announcement.  What critics have been saying all along is that if the platforms drop news links, then existing deals that were inked earlier would also be imperilled.  After all, if you are no longer allowing news content on your platforms, what’s the point of those deals?  I mean, if news isn’t even going to be present on those platforms in the first place, why have those deals?

Well, right on cue, Meta announced that it would be cancelling existing publisher deals – exactly as critics had warned would happen.

As that happened, the Canadian government grew increasingly desperate and apparently requested the US government to intervene and help them out.  Yes, the same US government who have been sharply criticizing the Canadian government over the very legislation they didn’t like in the first place.  This because the legislation targets American businesses, eliciting talk of levelling trade sanctions against Canada in response to this bill, Bill C-11, and the Digital Services Tax.  To the surprise of absolutely no one paying attention, the US declined to intervene to help Canada salvage the situation.  Gee, I wonder why!?

Panic continued to set in as the government scrambled to come up with a plan “B” – the same plan “B” that they have been asked about by the media and senators alike for the better part of a year now.  Observers seemingly correctly pointed out that there is no plan “B” and that talk of “all options” being “on the table” was little more than bluster since the Canadian government really doesn’t have any options left at this stage.  There’s no provision in the bill compelling platforms to host news links, there’s no existing law that will help the government out here, there’s no international law that can be worked to better the situation, and other governments have concluded that this is a mess Canada has to deal with and are, therefore, choosing not to intervene.

In light of that, it seemed like the Canadian government began running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  This was plainly obvious when the Minister decided to go on an international media tour and proceed to badmouth the platforms.  You know, because when you want to attract a multinational corporation to this country, the first thing you do is proclaim as loudly as possible that they are a terrible company.  On the international media circuit, Rodriguez falsely claimed that emergency alerts will also be blocked in the process, putting people’s lives in danger. Google responded to the false allegations by pointing out that SOS alerts will still be available after the news links drop happens.

Good job Rodriguez, defaming the platforms worked out real well in getting them back to this country!

From there, supporters of the bill decided to “help” by launching personal attacks against critics of the bill.  You know, because shooting the messenger is always a winning strategy.

Mixed in with the personal attacks, however, was the disinformation campaign that said that critics were wrong because Bill C-18 has nothing to do with news links.  This while posting links to the bill.  The misleading campaign was designed to prey on those who are less knowledgeable about the bill.  It basically invited people to go to the text of the bill and use “CTRL+F” and do a word search for “link”.  Indeed, you won’t find any word matches to the word “link”.

The problem is that just because “link” isn’t in the bill specifically doesn’t necessarily mean that the bill has nothing to do with links.  The bill, instead, uses entirely different language to describe a news link.  Specifically, it uses the phrase “making available” among other things to describe the act of linking.

For proof, I’ll quote Section 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.”

So, not only is this about news links, but also a host of other things as well.  A search engine can make a list of news organizations like CBC, CTV, and Global News.  That act, alone, would constitute “making available”.  No links required.  So, yes, this bill is not only about news links, but it is actually much worse than that.

Shortly after I published the article debunking these claims, the disinformation campaign ceased.  I’m guessing they knew they were caught.

The Canadian government continued to run around in circles in panic, trying to improvise a solution to the mess they got themselves into.  So, in an effort to woo the platforms back, they decided that financial retaliation was in order.  Really, the only thing missing at this point is Sideshow Bob shouting that the platforms will live to regret this.

In an announcement, Rodriguez said that the Canadian government has chosen to suspend a $10 million advertising deal with Meta.  This under the reasoning that they couldn’t, in good conscious, continue to advertise on a platform that allegedly won’t pay journalists for the work that they do.  I mean, that was never the job of the platforms, but rather, the people employing the journalists, but that’s beside the point.

While $10 million sounds like a lot of money, this is Meta we are talking about.  According to one statistic, in the year ending on March 31, 2023, Meta platforms generated $117.346 billion.  There are roughly 8,760 hours in a year.  So, this works out to Meta generating about, on average $13,395,662.10 per hour.  So, hilariously, the suspension works out to less than 1 hour of revenue for Meta.  Yes, the move was that meaningless in the end.

While Meta didn’t officially respond to the development, you can bet their response went something along the lines of…

(Oh No Anyway)

Of course, Bill C-18 apologists will probably, at this point, insist that this is less about money – even though the whole debate… you know… is about money – and more about sending a message.  Heck, this whole thing is about more than just one deal.  This is about trying to get Canadian businesses on board and leading by example.  This is about riling up Canadian’s and creating a massive boycott of the platforms, ensuring that they just have no choice but to come to heel or come crawling back and begging for forgiveness.

On the surface, that seemed to be Justin Trudeau’s strategy when talking to reporters.  In one exchange with a reporter, Trudeau said that this was a fight for democracy and compared this fight to World War 2.  Yeah, he really was that unhinged at that moment.  Here’s a clip of that exchange.

(Trudeau Answering)

Yeah, he really thinks that this is a fight for democracy.  Never mind the fact that this was an obvious response from the platforms and that Rodriguez admitted that this is a private business decision, no, this is a fight for democracy.  The whole answer made absolutely no sense, but I suppose when you live in a reality bubble long enough, you start honestly believing that everyone thinks exactly like you do and conclude that this was a brilliant genius move.

Well, since this is all about messaging and leading by example, naturally, the media asked if the Liberal political party will also fall within lockstep to the actual governments decision to suspend advertising with Meta.  You know, we’re starting a boycott here and this is about collective will to force the platforms to change their minds.  This while saying that this is about morality and democracy and, well, messaging in the first place.

The Liberal party responded to questions of whether or not they would also suspend political advertising by basically saying, “Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.”  Yes, the Liberal party themselves refused to suspend advertising to the platforms, undermining the very boycott they were trying to start.

The move ultimately signalled that the boycott was dead on arrival.

Faced with a boycott that was disintegrating right at the starting block, the mainstream media, one of the only remaining voices still in cult-like support of the legislation, decided to go it alone and join in on the whole idea of suspending advertising dollars.  Specifically, the Toronto Star announced that it would suspend advertising.

While the Toronto Star wasn’t exactly forthcoming with how much advertising they were doing in the first place, no doubt knowing full well that the dollar figure would only add to the humiliation of this boycott, we decided to do a little digging in the Facebook transparency reports.  What we found was that, up to that point, the Toronto Star spent, optimistically, $3,292 so far this year.  Now, using the figure of Meta’s $117.346 billion and assuming that there are roughly 31,536,000 seconds in a year, we can calculate that, on average, Meta makes roughly $3,721.02 in revenue every second.  Yeah, the spending doesn’t even break the one second barrier of Meta revenue.

Again, Meta didn’t formally respond, but you can probably bet that it was along he lines of-

(Oh No Anyway)

Worth pointing out in all of this is the fact that there was a growing rift between the Liberal Party of Canada and the media as a result of these developments.  Not a rift you’d think would see in this debate, but there was certainly a crack forming here.

Again, Bill C-18 supporters will insist that this is a messaging thing and leading a boycott of that evil Mark Zuckerberg and Meta in general.  Well, as you know, Meta, this month, launched Threads which was said to be yet another rival to Twitter.  Astonishingly, not only were Liberal Party MP’s happily joining that platform, but also the large media organizations in an effort to share their news links on the new platform.  Not only that, but both were loudly cheering on Mark Zuckerberg, helping him build a whole new platform in the process.

What?  I thought both were trying to lead a boycott against Meta, sending the Zuck a message that Meta won’t be able to get away with their actions.  Further, all of their services are going to get boycotted until they change their minds on Bill C-18!  What happened to that?

Now, for context, in looking back at the time stamps of these reports, I really wondered just how long this boycott lasted.  It went from July 5th to July 10th.  This boycott lasted a grand total of 5 days before going through a total collapse.

(Grand Opening Grand Closing)

With no real legal options left and a failed boycott on their hands, the government went back to the drawing board, frantically trying to come up with something else to get them out of the hole they dug themselves in.  I mean, this sort of planning should’ve happened long before the bill became law in the first place, but here we are.

In the next master stroke genius move, the government issued what they called “clarifying” language on the Online News Act.  By “clarifying” language, they apparently meant completely watering down the law now that it is, well, law.  This in a bid to bring the platforms back to discussions.

Among the points in the “clarifying” language include a liability cap and recognition of non-monetary contributions.  These are both points that have been called for by platforms during the legislative process, but both points the platforms didn’t get.

Despite the increasing desperation on the part of the government to make something work, there was a lot of skepticism as to whether or not the platforms would take it and come back to negotiate.  After all, these changes to the legislation are happening on the fly and suggests that the laws are very malleable to whatever the government aims to do.  Today, they may say that there are contribution caps, but tomorrow might be a different story.  It all depends on the whims of the government of the day.  This makes it a very difficult proposition for the platforms to accept.

University law professor, Michael Geist, wrote, “even if the government manages to find a compromise with Google, it seems unlikely that there will be one with Meta. Meta has left no doubt that it will not pay for links and that news has limited value on its platform. With the government suspending its advertising on the platform (even as the Liberal party continues to advertise and MPs race to create Threads accounts), it is hard to see a road back for Meta.”

There’s no two ways around it, the government’s credibility on this legislation is at rock bottom.  The fact that the government is showing that there’s lots of wiggle room with this bill, it makes certainty very unlikely.  The platforms have noted how this legislation creates lots of uncertainty and the governments “clarifying” language really only adds to it – even if the government is starting to tip their hand towards the platforms in a desperate bid to salvage the situation.

Buried in all of this is another comment made by the Canadian government.  The comments said, “Obligations under the Online News Act will come into effect no later than 180 days after June 22, 2023, the day Bill C-18 received Royal Assent.”

Running the math, that puts the latest date of the Online News Act coming into force to December 19th of this year – just before Christmas.  While there is some fuzzy dates involved as different parts are to come into force at different times, it looks like that is the date set out by the government.  This is critical because the platforms made it very clear that the news links blocking will occur before the bill comes into force.  So, between now and December 19th, this is going to happen.  At least we have a better idea on that front anyway.

While the platforms contemplated the new offer from the government, an Angus Reid poll came out with how Canadian’s are reacting to all of this.  With Bill C-18 supporters insisting that all these pushes were about messaging and getting the country behind the government on this, the numbers released by the polling firm were quite brutal for those supporters.

The poll asked Canadians whether or not they agreed with the statement “The federal government should back down and rescind Bill C-18”.  48% of Canadians responded that they either agree or strongly agree with that statement.  Only 26% said that they either strongly disagree or disagree with that statement.  25% said that they weren’t sure or couldn’t say.

The polling firm tried to find differentiation between age groups for this opinion, but generally didn’t find any.  Only 20% agreed that platforms should pay for linking.

What was interesting, however, was that Canadians are generally on board with the idea that platforms wield too much power over the internet.  Across age groups, the firm found that around 83% of Canadians agree that the platforms have too much power while only around 7% disagreed with that notion.  So, Canadians are on board with trying to solve the problem of excessive power by the platforms, but generally disagreed with the approach taken with Bill C-18.

Also, generally speaking, 63% of Canadians said that they are concerned with the cutoff of news links with only mild variations between political parties.  That’s a fear that is very much justified under the circumstances.

What’s more, 66% of Canadians agreed that Bill C-18 is going to hurt the smaller news players the most while only 11% disagreed with the notion.

The numbers are absolutely stark.  The polling runs totally counter to the messaging campaigns by both government and the media.  So, if there are those who think that all of this noise made by the government is about messaging and getting Canadians on board, then this poll shows that the messaging was an absolute failure.

After that, Meta responded to the new deal offered by the government.  In response, Meta basically said-

(No Deal)

The response is horrible for the government.  It means more pressure is being placed on Google to simply follow suit.  Google hasn’t said which way they would go after the government capitulated, but the other large player sucked into this debate has already walked away.

Now, a large part of the Bill C-18 debate has to do with foreign interference.  Specifically, lobbyists from Australia have been pushing hard for this bill.  Speculation is that someone behind News Corp Australia, possibly Rupert Murdoch, is pushing for this, but it’s hard to pin this on parties that did not make actual physical appearances.  One of those foreign lobbyists that did make an appearance is Rod Sims, former chair of Australia’s ACCC.

Well, in the midst of Bill C-18’s collapse, he chimed in, offering advice to try and help salvage the situation.  Keep in mind this is the guy the government and supporters relied on heavily in getting this bill this far into the process.  So, what did he have to say that will show him swooping in and saving the day?  He said, “the Australian NMBC says that if Google and Meta decide not to show news on their platforms then they cannot show any news at all from anywhere. In this context, it would mean that if Google and Facebook remove news it would not just be news focused on a Canadian audience but all news from anywhere in the world however targeted. That is, they cannot discriminate against Canadian-focused publishers. The Canadian government has the power to address this point through regulation, and I would encourage them to do so.”

The comments were stunning.  In his mind, in order to save the news, we must censor the news.  Not just any news, but all of the news.  Seriously, Rod, if you are going to say stupid stuff like this, you might as well just butt out of this debate now.  You’ve caused enough damage to this country as it is, so please, just leave so we can have a chance at figuring out how to clean up the mess you partly caused.  As for those who have listened to him up to this point, I think this made it painfully clear that he is about the last person you want to consult with in this debate.

Meanwhile, the damage caused by Bill C-18 is set to ramp up potentially sooner rather than later.  Facebook began running ads warning Canadians that news links to Canadian sources will be dropped soon.  The ads read, in part, “To comply with the Online News Act, we’re ending news availability on Facebook and Instagram in Canada

“To comply with federal legislation, viewing and posting news content will no longer be possible on Facebook and Instagram in Canada.”

“The only way we can reasonably comply with this legislation is to end news availability.”

“The Online News Act is based on the incorrect premise that social media companies benefit unfairly from news content shared on our platforms.”

“The reverse is actually true. News outlets voluntarily share content on social media to expand their audiences and help their bottom line.”

There were others, but you get the jist of it.  It’s still unclear when the move will start happening on Facebook, but the speculation is that the move will happen sooner rather than later as a result of the appearance of these ads.

Well, evidently, in an effort to be upfront with Canadians, Meta also tried to run advertising on the traditional media ad networks.  The media responded by refusing to run them.  The refusal is in the context that the media companies themselves have been running multiple defamation campaigns against the platforms for some time now.  Whether it was the notorious Mark Zuckerberg wanted for theft of news campaign, the so-called “Disappearing Headline” campaign, the coordinated coverage to include heaps of disinformation about the bill, spiking editorials from experts that dared to offer any criticism towards the bill at all, and more, the media has been less about journalism and more about propaganda and messaging.

Indeed, it is well within the media companies right to refuse to run the ads, but in the context of their controversial behaviour of the last couple of years, it just makes the traditional media outlets look substantially worse when they refuse to hear from the other side of the debate – even if it is paid for messages.

Finally, this month, we explored a rather interesting criticism in the Bill C-18 debate.  Specifically, that criticism amounts to “who gets their news on Facebook anyway?”  It’s easy to dismiss this criticism as weird or odd, but add in all the evidence in this debate, this criticism actually makes a whole lot of sense.

I wrote a detailed article explaining all the ins and outs, but the short version of it is this:

In an overwhelming amount of studies, only a tiny fraction of users actually use Facebook for getting the news.  It’s a similar story with Google.  Google, for their part, testified that only about 2% of search queries are actually news related.  So, if you are one of those people who don’t use platforms to search for news, congratulations, you are normal.

The flip side is that although this is a borderline meaningless number of users for the platforms, that still ends up being more than sufficient for the news publishers to stay afloat.  So, for them, they get a majority of their traffic from the platforms.  It’s a scale thing.

So, that’s how you get people wondering who uses platforms for news while, at the same time, news publishers end up depending so heavily on the platforms in the first place.

While all of that was largely the government side of the debate, there is also the perspective from the news organizations themselves.  The situation really isn’t any better from that angle.  This month kicked off with a story really showing the blatant hypocrisy of mainstream news organizations on this debate.  Most of them are huge supporters of Bill C-18, the same legislation that will completely rip apart the entire news sector.  Yeah, it really is an industry wide effort to shoot themselves in the foot here.

Well, one of those organizations that was actively cheerleading the legislation was Bell Media.  All of this, of course, under the premise that this is about supporting Cancon content and bolstering local journalism. Well, the ink barely dried on the new law before Bell filed paperwork asking the CRTC to defund local journalism and reduce Cancon quotas.  The controversial filing said that Bell is asking that the following be eliminated from the conditions of broadcasting:

–    A requirement for English-language stations in large markets to broadcast 14 hours of local programming per week

–    A requirement for French-language stations to broadcast local programming each week (5 hours in Montreal and Quebec, 2.5 hours at other stations)

–    Requirements for locally reflective news in English each week (6 hours in large markets, 3 hours in small markets, and special lower quotas for smaller or regional stations)

–    A requirement for 5 hours of locally reflective news each week on Noovo’s Montreal station

–    A requirement for Bell (as a group) to spend 11% of CTV/CTV2’s gross revenues on locally reflective news and 5% of Noovo’s gross revenues

Yeah, you want to know what Bell’s real commitment to local journalism is?  There it is in plain language.  So much for telling Canadian stories.

Critics blasted the filing, suggesting that this is part of a much broader effort by Bell to gut local journalism outlets and TV news stations.

One supporter of the new law, meanwhile, has admitted that things may not turn out as well as they expect.  French news organization, Le Devoir, published an article talking about the legislation.  In the article, they note that the platforms were never actually “stealing” their content.  Instead, the organization freely and wilfully shared links to their news organizations content.  This is something we have been saying all along about news links.  It is, quite frankly, refreshing when at least one supporter is finally plainly saying this fact.

Critics note that, what they also said, suggest that there might have been some buyers remorse to the Online News Act.  According to a translation posted by Norman Spector, the article said, “The media have won against Google and Meta, but at what cost? This may all be a big Meta bluff, as in Australia. We will know soon enough. With the rise of AI to generate content on the cheap and to power search engines, the global fatigue with news content, the radical transformation of news consumption habits, the possibility that Google, and above all Meta, can do without journalistic content to achieve their ends is less far-fetched than it once seemed.”

While critics have said that this is the outcome that was destined to happen all along, this is a pretty big admission from a news organization supportive of the then legislation.  I mean, we are on a one way trip now with the outcome of platforms dropping news links being seemingly a sure thing, so little can be done about it now, but at least there are news organizations that are admitting that this might actually be a possibility in the first place.

As panic continued to set in in the media sector, one development happened this month that really shook the confidence of supporters of the legislation.  PostMedia and the Toronto Star announced that there is an intention to merge the two publishing giants.  The move was supposed to be a survival tactic for both.  Some of the speculation was that the business uncertainty surrounding the Online News Act may have contributed to the talks happening in the first place.  No one seemed happy with these merger talks as observers spoke about how this development represents witnessing the destruction of the news sector in real time.  Since our report, the talks have broken apart as the merger is now seemingly no longer moving ahead.

While supporters did launch an attack on critics warning of the consequences of the legislation, their false claims that Bill C-18 has nothing to do with links wasn’t the only false claim they pushed.  This month, Bill C-18 supporters also launched a separate attack on critics with equally bogus claims.

The claims were that critics of the legislation never offered alternative solutions to Bill C-18.  If you listened to this podcast for any length of time, you are probably laughing at this point.  This is because the claim doesn’t even pass the laugh test.

The truth is that critics offered numerous alternative solutions to Bill C-18.  This includes various fund models that can redirect revenue from platforms to news publishers.  Others have suggested looking at how publicly funded news organizations, namely the CBC, get financial compensation from the government.  Offering more tax breaks for news organizations was also floated.  Many of these alternatives were offered to the government by numerous supporters and critics of the legislation.  The problem wasn’t that there weren’t alternatives offered.  The problem was that many people offered alternative solutions and the government flatly ignored them all, insisting that link taxes was the only solution available and anyone saying otherwise are just shills for Big Tech.  Either way, myth thoroughly debunked.

As time progressed over the course of the month, panic among publishers continued to grow.  Following the reports of Facebook turning down the governments capitulated offer, the Canadian Media Directors’ Council published an open letter, twisting the events for all its worth.  In the process, they called on advertisers to “pledge” 25% of advertising revenue to local journalism outlets.  It’s not because the legislation is about to blow up the entire sector.  No siree!  This is about, uh, making an impact.  Yeah, that’s the ticket!  Making an impact!   Otherwise, nothing to see here, move along, hahaha!

The damaging effects of Bill C-18 was also being felt by multiple news organizations as well.  Multiple people working in news organizations have begun noticing that they have been completely blocked on Instagram.  The blocks appear to be part of the larger test by Meta which begun earlier on. As a result, Pablo Rodriguez did get some angry messages from journalists.

Faced with impending disaster that just about everyone predicted, publishers just begging advertisers to keep throwing money at them wasn’t the only tactic they employed.  In addition to that, the large publishing organizations were also begging readers to download their app and bookmark their web pages.  When was the last time you heard of a campaign to bookmark a website?  Among the publishers begging users to find alternatives to read them are the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail.  It’s unclear if these campaigns will really change the situation much for publishers.

The testing on Instagram continued as well.  The list of affected news organizations kept growing part way through the month.  Two more news organizations blocked from Instagram were CPAC and Press Progress.  CPAC whined that “Meta is trying to turn off your access to Canadian democracy”.  This despite the fact that the large news organizations got themselves into this situation in the first place.

Meanwhile, Luke LeBrun responded to the blocking by saying, “We never asked anyone to compensate us for sharing links to our website. We only ask readers who value what we do to support our work.”

People like that, well, I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for.  If you never asked for this legislation and had no problem with how things worked with sharing news links, then get stuck with this situation anyway, yeah, they clearly didn’t deserve this.  As we get closer to whenever Meta and Google decides to pull that switch, the situation is only going to get even uglier.

Finally, the large media outlets continue to run misleading and factually incorrect news articles about the Online News Act.  One method that the mainstream media misleads its readers is through fake “explainer” articles.  These aren’t anything new as they are part of a broader campaign to mislead the general public, but since the topic of trust in the media being at all time lows was brought up at the time, I figured I’d fact-check one of these recently published articles.

The one I happen to dig up was published on CTV and, while it wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, it was bad enough that it required a full re-write as opposed to critiquing it.  Yes, there was some really basic facts that the article got right like the legislation passing into law and that the bill is coming into force later this year.  Beyond that, though, the factual inaccuracies and outright misleading takes made the article beyond repair.

For one, in the section asking about what the criticism of the legislation was, all the journalist did for the most part was pull two tweets from Conservative Leader, Pierre Poilivre talking about censorship in the media.  Then, the author slapped a quote at the end talking about worry of what happens when platforms block news links.  The author then called it a day.  That, alone, was an epic fail on the journalists part.

The article got worse.  For one, it claimed that Bill C-18 requires news links to be carried on social media.  There is no such provision in the new law.

Additionally, it blamed Google and Facebook exclusively for falling revenue even though there is clear evidence of other shifts in the industry contributing significantly to the losses in revenue in journalism.  Examples include flyers being distributed by the postal system, coupons being replaced by rewards programs, consolidation in the industry contributing to a persistent decline in the quality of journalism, and numerous other problems that have nothing to do with the platforms.

Also, it devoted a section to who is affected by the bill.  In answering that, the author completely forgot to answer that question within that section.  Yeah, it was really bad.

So, I prefaced the full re-write by pointing out that CTV is far from the only ones guilty of spreading disinformation on the Online News Act, it just happened to be the closest article I had on hand at the time. This when I did some digging at the time on just how bad journalism is on this topic among the larger outlets.  Mainstream media pumping out disinformation on the Online News Act has been an industry-wide problem for about three years now.  What’s more, there aren’t very many signs saying this will stop any time soon.  This leaves us smaller players, like us, to continually set the record straight.

In the actual re-write, I kept most of the basic structure.  Some of that structure made no sense because it only served to push propaganda rather than fact.  I did add one section that did add some context to the wider debate.  After that, I pretty much wrote the article from the ground up.  I noted things like how criticisms came from all corners of the debate, I cited government figures, noted various studies, quoted experts and generally made the article much more factual.  This while, at the same time, trying to distill it all down into something that was reasonably easy to read.

I don’t expect this to change things in the debate, but it was an interesting exercise in highlighting just how bad mainstream journalism is with the Online News Act.  Also, hey, you get another fact-based article thrown into the noise to offer clarity of what is really going on, so it wasn’t a total waste of time and effort.

Finally, we have a conclusion to share with you in our Bill C-18 senate hearing special.  I know, the hearings ended last month, what are you still doing offering analysis?  Well, although I fell behind in these hearings, I still wanted a complete record of the hearings anyway.  Freezenet was the only website offering comprehensive coverage of these hearings and, just because no one else was doing this doesn’t necessarily mean I should just slack off and not bother.  This is about being able to put out a high quality product and providing you with the best coverage I am capable of.  You know what?  As a result, you got full high quality coverage of the entire hearings, gavel to gavel.  I’m proud of being able to offer that kind of quality coverage, and from the sounds of things, you got a lot of out those hearings as well.  So, I just wanted to thank you for being with me throughout this huge writing journey from beginning to end.

This month we carried on with the first segment of hearing 9.  This hearing was much more painful than I expected.  When first nations people spoke during the senate hearings on Bill C-11, their appearances were really interesting and quite insightful, adding a really neat and thought provoking perspective on the Bill C-11 hearing.  That was a real highlight of those hearings.

My hope was that there might have been that same interesting perspective to add insight to the overall debates in the Bill C-18 hearings.  That… didn’t happen.  Instead, we got two organizations that really struggled to even comprehend just how Bill C-18 even works.  Here’s Senator Julie Meville-Dechene asking the questions and Jean LaRose of Dadan Sivunivut answering.

(LaRose clip)

Ouch.  Answers really don’t get a whole lot more painful than that.  In summary, the organization said that they don’t even have journalists.  A major premise of the bill is supposedly about an exchange of value where if your news links appear on social media, then you get paid for it… as ridiculous as that sounds.  This organization suggested that they would get money so that they can start up news infrastructure.  Not how the bill works.  You’re not getting money for future journalism.  It’s about links that exist on the platforms today.  It really put into question what LaRose was even doing there in that hearing in the first place.  His organization, right off of the bat, isn’t qualified due to a complete lack of news in the first place.

At any rate, an absolutely brutal and painful appearance.

We then moved on to hearing 9, segment 2.  This was largely a panel of lobbyists where a third news organization happened to be there which was Ben Wood of AllNovaScotia.  Now, one thing that had occurred to me was the fact that David Skok of The Logic seems to be able to have all of the appearances in the world with these hearings.  He claims to be a small independent news organization, yet mysteriously has all the access to government in the world.  At the same time, Skok is continuing to push all of this disinformation about Bill C-18 in lockstep with the largest publishers.  Like… what?  Is The Logic funded by PostMedia or something?  Well, funny story.  Here’s Wood answering a question by Senator Pamela Wallin.

(Wood Clip)

Ooo!  Busted!  That, however, really explains a lot, though.  In response, Skok’s eyes were darting around the room as he appeared flustered by that sudden rush of transparency.  The hearing moved on and Senator Jim Quinn asked a completely different question, but Skok was seemingly desperate to try and push back against that transparency.

(Skok Clip)

Yeah!  We’re funded by PostMedia!  So what?  We get funding from everywhere!  It’s no big deal!  I’m my own boss, so there!  I mean, look at the Tyee!  They get funding from big publishing too!  Everyone gets funding from the large media companies!  This happens all the time!  So, it’s no big deal!  We’re all legit and totally not influenced by others in any way!  Legit I tell ya!  Legit!

Just a little bit frazzled by this, are we?  Way to implicate The Tyee in the process there, dude.

From there, we made it to the final hearing.  In hearing 10, segment 1, we got to hear from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.  Present was Yves Giroux along with Rolande Kpekou Tossou.  In the hearing, Giroux commented that Tossou did excellent work on putting together the report.  Now, I kind of half expected that to just be standard professional courtesy and nothing too noteworthy.  Yet, when she later spoke, explaining how she came up with the figures that she did, it quickly became clear that she was absolutely brilliant when doing her research.  Now, keep in mind, the report was released long ago when Bill C-18 was not even released.  So, how did they come up with figures that were so accurate?  The answer was actually quite genius.  Here’s Senator Wallin asking the question and Giroux and Tossou answering.

(Tossou Clip)

That information gathering there was really quite smart.  Despite having so little to go on, it sounds like she was able to gather extremely accurate information and provide really good estimates.  They also asked general questions from their Australian counterparts and got some general information as well.  So, clearly the cudos was well deserved, actually.  Impressive stuff.

While the first segment of hearing 10 was quite informative, the same couldn’t be said for segment 2 of hearing 10.  In this final segment, we heard from Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez.  Again, Rodriguez is barely aware of his own surroundings at the best of times.  If that sounds harsh, well, Rodriguez could do himself a huge favour and stop proving me right.  Multiple senators asked Rodriguez a series of questions – hence the whole purpose of such a hearing in the first place.  Getting answers out of him, however, was like pulling teeth.  Buckle up because this is an absolutely massive train wreck on the part of Rodrigez.  Here’s Senator Julie Miville-Dechene, Paula Simons, and Pamela Wallin asking questions and Rodrguez, uh, not answering.

(Rodriguez Clip)

Wow, just wow.  Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it just kept going and going and going.  Seriously, he didn’t answer a single freaking question there.

One thing that was notable was that Thomas Owen Ripley was also present in that hearing.  Despite senators best efforts to allow him to chime in, Rodriguez just kept digging.  Eventually, Ripley was permitted to answer questions.  What was remarkable was that as soon as Ripley was able to answer questions, it really looked like senators stopped spinning their wheels and started getting somewhere.  Had Rodriguez let Ripley just answer everything, the departments performance would’ve improved dramatically.

At any rate, there was no plan “B” despite senators asking about it.  He claimed to have options and said that all options are on the table, but refused to elaborate.  Honestly, he didn’t have any options and refused to even contemplate what the options he thought he had would’ve been.  That’s how we got to the government improvising and coming up with last ditch effort solutions after the bill became law.  That along with the platforms announcing that they would follow through with their warned responses.

So, quite the finale to these hearings.  A really really dumb finale, but a finale nonetheless.

After that, we offered a wrap-up post offering all the necessary links and some final concluding thoughts.  Yes, we fell behind in our analysis, but Freezenet has once again become the only site to offer comprehensive gavel to gavel coverage of such a critical internet bill.  We did it for Bill C-11 and repeated that spectacular journalistic effort for Bill C-18.  We powered through exhaustion and writing burnout, but we got through it.  In all, this coverage weighed in at an estimated 170,736 words – so longer dissertation levels of quantity.  Truth be told, I never want to do that ever again, but it was a project that was well and truly worth it anyway.

Again, thank you for being with us through this entire coverage.  I’m super happy that others found my coverage useful and informative.  Heck, in covering this, I felt like I learned a lot from the different perspectives on this debate too.  Happy to have offered the best coverage on these hearings.

So, definitely a really eventful month here on Freezenet.  Here are some of the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

A major theme throughout this podcast is, of course, trust in the media.  Specifically, how much trust in the major media outlets have been shaken.  This month, news from the Globe and Mail about CTV really didn’t help matters.  In an explosive story, Bell Media was reportedly pressuring CTV News to avoid negative coverage of their parent company, Bell Media.

Bell Media president, Wade Oosterman, apparently told CTV journalists that he’s not asking them to “shill for the corporation. I am not saying to distort reality to help.”

Oosterman said, “But for God’s sake, if there is a choice between helping and not helping – help”

He offered an example of Bell’s financials and said, “We sometimes report results and, you know, our results are flat and our profits was up 8 per cent and there is choice between headlines and we report revenues are flat instead of profits are up 8 per cent. Why would we take that negative spin instead of the positive spin?”

The report added that Oosterman described Bell as a “jewel” and “for the life of me, I cannot figure out why we are so reticent to embrace that.”

Uh, protip to Oosterman: if you’re trying to add credibility to CTV News, you’re not helping.

Now, when we talk about link taxes, what are some of the criticisms of it?  The criticisms include that it’s unconstitutional, there’s no evidence in other jurisdictions that it solved the problems it set forth to solve, that such legislation is simply being pushed on blind faith that, oh no, things will be different this time, and that it envisions a system that makes no sense in the internet realm.

You might be thinking that I’m talking about Bill C-18 right now.  Here’s the freaky part about this: all of the above criticisms also fit perfectly with the California Journalism Preservation Act (or CJPA) as well.  That legislation is currently working its way through the California lawmaking process.  Different set of laws, different legal precedences in the court, completely different country, exact same debate.  In surveying the CJPA debate, that’s what I ended up finding.  It was scary how similar the debates were.

Finally, there has been no shortage of mainstream news articles and broadcasters decrying the negative impacts of social media.  Whether the fears they pushed was real or imagined, no negative story about social media seems to be off limits for the mainstream media. Conversely, positive stories on social media tend to get buried or ignored with only the most limited number of stories even getting a single mention – if at all.

You might think that this is exclusively a North American media trend, but as it turns out, this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to this continent.  TikTok creator, Dylan Page, found himself in the midst of a similar controversy with British broadcaster, ITV news.  In the video, Page noted that despite the warm reception and kind words he received when he spoke to the media about creators attracting younger audiences to the news, what ended up airing was a completely different story afterwards.  Here’s part of Page’s response to this story.

(Page Clip)

What is so ironic about this is that the media is scaremongering people into believing that the information people get through the internet is, in general, manipulated and pushing conspiracy theories.  Yet, at the same time, the news report itself is heavily manipulating information and using conspiracy theories.  It’s absolutely ridiculous.  You just can’t make this stuff up.

Video Game Reviews

So, definitely a lot of drama happening these days.  Let’s cool things off and talk about entertainment.

Before we get into the video game reviews, I wanted to mention what first impression video’s we’ve posted this month.

For this month’s Steam game, we checked out Fall of the Dungeon Guardians.  That video can be seen on the site or on YouTube.

This month’s Playstation 3 game is Rayman Origins.  That video can be seen on our site and on YouTube.

This month’s XBox 360 game is Forza Horizon.  This particularly popular video can be seen on our site and on YouTube.

Finally, this months Playstation 4 game is Borderlands 3.  That video can be seen on our site and on YouTube.

As always, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel and turn on notifications to get realtime updates on what video’s we’ve posted.

Now, here are video games we’ve reviewed this month:

First up is the Playstation game, Final Fantasy VIII.  A game with a bizarre penalty for levelling up your characters, really touch and go level design, and an overly complex card system leaves a lot to be desired here.  This one flopped with a 46%.

Next is Burnout Revenge for the Playstation 2.  Many features that made previous instalments great are present.  The introduction of traffic checking also helps things along.  This game ends up with a very solid 74%.

From there, we played Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando for the Playstation 2.  Lots of variety, though the locking system does glitch from time to time.  With nothing else to really complain about, this game gets a great 84%.

Finally, we played Turok 3 – Shadow of Oblivion for the N64.  A PSG system that has a real way of killing off all the enjoyment from this game, forgettable music, and a downgrade in graphical quality really hurt this game.  Still, the duel quest tree between the two characters is interesting.  This one gets a mediocre 60%.

Music Reviews

As for music we’ve listened to this month, we’ve got…

Kim Lukas – All I Really Want (Eiffel 65 Single Remix)

Gouryella – Walhalla (Vocal Extended)

Pearl Jam – Given to Fly

Ahmet Atasever Feat. Monty Wells – Trading Halos (Sunset Remix)

Ash – Orpheus

Foo Fighters – My Hero

Madonna – Frozen

Kid Rock – Bawitdaba

… and finally, My Chemical Romance – I’m Not Okay (I Promise)

Picks of the Month

So, that leads us to our pick of the month.  This month, our pick of the month belongs to My Chemical Romance – I’m Not Okay (I Promise).  Also, be sure to check out Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando for the Playstation 2, Gouryella – Walhalla (Vocal Extended), Kim Lukas – All I Really Want (Eiffel 65 Single Remix), and Kid Rock – Bawitdaba.  This month was a really good month on the entertainment side, what can I say?


If you’d like to get your hands on some behind the scenes stuff, exclusive content, and early access material, you can check out our Patreon page at  Through this, you can help make Freezenet just that much better all the while getting some pretty cool stuff in the process.  That’s!

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…and that’s this months episode for July, 2023.  I’m Drew Wilson for Freezenet.  Be sure to check out our website at for all the latest in news and reviews.  You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Mastodon.  Thank you for listening and see you next month.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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