Messaging Fail: 48% of Canadians Say Bill C-18 Should be Rescinded According to Poll

A new poll suggests that Canadians think that Bill C-18 should be rescinded. The poll was conducted by Angus Reid.

It seems that all the free publicity in the world wasn’t enough to sway Canadians that Bill C-18 is a good bill. Earlier this month, the Canadian government suspended the governments ad campaign valued at roughly $10 million. The hope seemed to be that this would start a trend for companies to follow this up with joining a sort of business wide boycott of Meta for making the business decision of dropping news links in Canada in response to Bill C-18, Canada’s link tax law.

Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, upped that rhetoric to unhinged levels when he compared this fight with the platforms to World War II and the war on Ukraine. This dialed up the rhetoric as the government tried to play this whole self made mess as some sort of war for democracy and a rallying cry for all of Canada to stand with the government and increase pressure on the platforms to give free money to the platforms for no real reason.

Well, the boycott was ultimately doomed to fail from day one. After making the announcement, the media asked if the Liberal Party (who currently is the governing party) would join the boycott and further lead by example. The Liberal Party, however, flatly refused and, instead, insisted that other businesses take on such a risk and that other people can choose to do these things with their money. They, on the other hand, can’t be bothered to help out the very cause they spearheaded.

That ultimately left several media outlets to go it alone, showcasing a growing rift between the two core elements of the legislation: the media and the government. The Toronto Star, for its part, did announce that they would be boycotting Meta as part of the effort to supposedly bring the platforms to heel for making that annoyingly, yet perfectly reasonable business decision under the circumstances. However, while the Toronto Star was loudly rattling their sabre publicly, they were also quietly busily undermining their own boycott by joining Threads and sharing their content on there, helping the De facto enemy in building his next platform. In fact, other supporters of the legislation were also joining the new platform and even cheering on Zuckerberg as he took on self destructing idiot, Elon Musk who was busily causing his own platform, Twitter, to implode.

In the end, the boycott ended before it began. Meta made back the $10 million that was apparently suspended in the span of less than an hour. The amount of money spent by the Toronto Star was made back in under 1 second. So, it was questionable if Meta even took a financial impact in the first place.

Of course, some who insist all of this is just brilliant 4D chess on the part of the government and supporter might argue that it was less about making a financial impact and more about messaging. After all, it was all a publicity game, honest! Well, if that were the case, it seems that Canadians aren’t exactly on board with this either. In a new poll by Angus Reid, 48% of Canadians are wanting Bill C-18 rescinded. From Angus Reid:

An escalating tug of war between the Liberal government and Big Tech – with Canadian news content in the middle – is heating up an already hot summer in Canada.

New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds Canadians aligned in principle with the concept of going after so-called “Big Tech” to “pay their fair share”, something touted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in recent weeks. But many are concerned about the consequences of the Liberal government’s proposed solution, the Online News Act, which seeks to force Meta (Facebook), Alphabet (Google), and others, to spend millions to access and share Canadian content.

Three-in-five Canadians (61%) say Big Tech should compensate Canadian organizations when their content is shared, given that those platforms benefit from vast advertising dollars that may have gone to the original creators, but are increasingly concentrated in the hands of tech companies.

That said, more than three-in-five (63%) are also concerned about losing access to Canadian news on Facebook and Google.

This in turn has half (48%) of Canadians directing the federal government to “back down” in its battle with Big Tech, while one-quarter say Ottawa should stand firm (26%) and the same number (25%) are unsure of the best path forward.

For Canadians, the loss of Google and Facebook as news vehicles would be considerable. Each is used by more than two-in-five Canadians daily for news, a proportion higher than all other platforms and websites.

An accompanying graphic pretty much said it all:

The findings is an epic backfiring for supporters. They had all the large news organizations pretty much pushing the messaging that Bill C-18 is good and that it’s the best solution to fix everything with the Canadian news sector. What’s more, supporters continue to insist that Canadians are on their side and are standing united in support of this bill. Apparently, the exact opposite is true. Canadians are more likely to say that the bill should be rescinded (and it should be rescinded, really). Just as damning is the fact that 25% of Canadians didn’t know enough to formulate an opinion. Considering all the publicity this bill got over the years, it’s kind of incredible that the number is anything above 10% let along a staggering 25%.

The further you go down through the findings, the more brutal of a picture it paints for Bill C-18 supporters. For instance, one section points out that, at most, 20% support the concept of a link tax.

Indeed, there is a good portion of people who think it’s reasonable to get platforms to kick back some money to platforms. However, a link tax is the wrong approach. Indeed, throughout the debates and hearings of Bill C-18, the critics of the legislation kept floating a fund model where platforms pay into a fund every year and that money would then, subsequently, get divvied up among the publishers. However, the government flat out refused to even consider the proposition and, instead, insisted on the worst possible idea of all: a link tax – a concept that is demonstrably unpopular in these results.

Just to turn the knife that much further for Bill C-18 supporters, Canadians are, in fact, on board with the idea that platforms wield way too much power:

It’s really telling that there is an overwhelming majority of Canadians who would be on board with regulating large tech companies, yet the Canadian government and the large media companies on their side, couldn’t sell the link tax legislation to a theoretically receptive audience. You could almost sum up the government and the Canadian population thusly:

Government: Big tech have too much power!
Canadians: Yeah!
Government: We’re going to regulate big tech!
Canadians: Great idea!
Government: We’ll do so with a link tax!
Canadians: WTF???

Another thing that Bill C-18 supporters continuously get wrong about critics is that critics are already largely on board with regulating the large tech companies. For myself, I’ve written a lot about what the Canadian government could be doing with their time. In one list, I specifically talked about privacy reform that is actually meaningful. In countless other articles, I spoke about how we should be talking about regulating the ad tech sector and re-working the competition laws as well so that we can finally work on breaking down numerous highly consolidated and concentrated sectors. There are number of productive ways you can “regulate big tech”, but link taxes is most assuredly not one of those ways. Any critic who says that Bill C-18 critics don’t want to see big tech regulated is simply flat out lying.

Of course, a big elephant in the room is the thought that platforms could cut off news links altogether. While the government has been pushing the idea that Canadians will ‘not be bullied’ and to not fear the platforms warnings, it seems Canadians aren’t seeing it that way. A majority are (rightfully) worried about this:

The potential damage to the entire news sector is enormous. Bill C-18 forced the platforms hand on this. The platforms have made it very clear when they announced these decisions that they didn’t want to do this, but the regulation left them with little choice. There isn’t exactly a huge number of Canadians who like the idea of watching their own local news company to become collateral damage in all of this, however, the way things are headed, that could very well happen in a number of circumstances. So, Canadian’s have a really good reason to be worried where things are headed right now. A good chunk of Canadians even agree that the fallout is going to hurt the smaller players the most:

Bill C-18 really has smaller players screwed over in both directions. If the platforms go along with this somehow, then the smaller players are going to be left with crumbs. In fact, throughout the Bill C-18 hearings at the senate, smaller players rightfully voiced their concerns that they are going to be left with next to nothing here. Then, on the flip side, if the platforms drop news links altogether, many of the smaller players are going to get screwed over because the largest source of traffic is suddenly choked off, cutting off ad revenue and subscriptions in the process. For a lot of the smaller players, they simply can’t afford to let that happen. As a result, they are staring down the barrel of financial ruin. These results clearly demonstrate that Canadians get it on this angle as well.

The whole survey results is worth browsing over, but the bottom line is that these results completely eviscerates the messaging that Canadians are totally seeing what the Canadian government is seeing right now in this debate. If the hope was to push messaging on the population to get them on board with the direction the government is taking, this poll clearly shows that this angle has completely failed as well. The large media companies and the government may throw their temper tantrums and scream to the hilltops that these decisions will cost the platforms in the publicity realm, but it looks like few Canadian’s would agree with that. No wonder the Canadian government is now capitulating on Bill C-18 in the hopes of getting the platforms to come back and talk about the new law.

Further reading: Angus Reid poll

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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