MP Lisa Hepfner Faces Backlash from Journalists After Saying Platforms “Steal” News Articles

Liberal MP, Lisa Hepfner, is facing even more controversy from journalists after saying that platforms “steal” news articles.

Liberal MP, Lisa Hepfner, has become embroiled in another political scandal. Late last month, the MP caught controversy for saying that digital news outlets are “not news“. The controversial remarks were recorded during here appearance before a House of Commons committee and went viral shortly after:

Shortly after, Hepfner apologized for her remarks, but for many critics, the damage was already done. It confirmed what many had long suspected in that anything not mainstream was considered by Liberals and their backers as not real journalists. The suspicion was only further compounded when a large media outlet accused online news organizations of being “questionable” just last week.

You’d think that lessons would be learned at that point about being careful what you say as a lawmaker. Unfortunately, it appears that the MP has really learned nothing from the experience. This after recently being embroiled in yet another political scandal. Her remarks were posted on Twitter:

Tweet 1:

As a former journalist, I’ve always understood and appreciated the importance of local, community news. I’ve consistently been a champion of journalism, which is why I am so pleased to have worked on a piece of legislation that will ensure more revenue for news outlets, more 1/3

Tweet 2:

transparency, and the protection of journalistic independence. After meeting with stakeholders, hearing form witnesses and deliberations at committee, today Bill C-18, the Online News Act, was passed in the House of Commons and will be making it’s way to the Senate. Our 2/3

Tweet 3:

gov’t will always support quality, fact-based and local Canadian journalism in a fair digital marketplace. This bill makes it harder for big digital platforms like Facebook and Google to steal local journalists’ articles and repost them without credit on one of their networks 3/3

The remarks further cemented the reputation of the MP as being a complete idiot. It’s pretty difficult to figure out where to begin with comments so daft in the first place.

As any real journalist with the most basic knowledge of how social media works, a link on a social media platform is not “stealing”. In fact, the act is actually a common method of how posts can cite sources on the internet. It really is the most basic level of citation and attribution. Without a link, it becomes harder to verify the sources that you are using assuming you are using third party sources at all. For many, a link is the most basic level of giving credit to a source.

Further, a vast majority of links posted to social media are voluntarily posted by the journalists and news sources themselves. This with the hopes of expanding their reach and audience as more and more users click on those links to go back to the original sources. Social media platforms, for the most part, aren’t actually “stealing” articles or even taking those articles in the first place. Even when it’s not the journalists or the media outlets posting those links, it’s the users themselves that are sharing those links in the first place.

What’s more is that it’s complete nonsense that posting a link is akin to “stealing” in the first place. If platforms were actually copying and pasting whole articles, then it would be a case of copyright infringement that the current Copyright Act already addresses. Since a vast majority of these platforms are bound by the US copyright law, the DMCA, it would be a trivial case of submitting a DMCA to take it down – and platforms would easily comply in that scenario given the available remedies in both Canada and the United States.

Instead, what is happening is that a small snippet, a thumbnail of an image, and a link is what is being posted. This act is obviously well within the limits of Canada’s Fair Dealing provisions. As such, infringement is not taking place and no law is being broken when it comes to the standard ways outlets re-post their material onto these platforms in the first place.

Also, if it was well and truly the case that platforms were re-posting whole articles without attribution or permission, nothing in Bill C-18 addresses the activity in the first place.

The comments are a perfect example of just how badly out of touch Hepfner really is on how the real world works these days. While these comments could be relegated to the category of “idiot makes stupid comments on Twitter”, moments that are a dime a dozen these days, the problem is that this MP is helping to craft legislation that threatens the very core of journalism in this country. This along with numerous outlets that have innovated and become a success online today. So, the threats posted by the Liberals do need to be taken more seriously.

Hepfner’s remarks sparked backlash from journalists. It seems that more and more journalists are growing increasingly impatient with what is happening and are increasingly speaking out against all of this. Jeff Elgie, CEO of media outlet, The Village, responded to the comments:

They don’t “steal” our content. We willingly publish it on those platforms.

Mark Edge also responded to the comments:

linking to something – anything – on the Internet is not stealing it or reposting it without credit . . . it is instead promoting it by sending traffic to that website

Max Fawcett too responded to the comments:

They’re not stealing it. They’re sharing it — you know, extending/expanding its reach.

Blogger Alexandre Vallières posted a response as well

In all seriousness, if social media stopped linking to those articles you dearly love, readership would drop by 85% overnight. And news networks would crumble. The reality is this is how most consume the news nowadays. Their revenues is coming from Big Tech, not hindered by it.

A historian had this to say:

This change will only negatively affect small outlets

So, considerable backlash without even talking about other people’s comments. This was just a small sampling of the massive backlash the MP got.

Obviously, journalists are going to feel threatened by not only these comments, but the bill itself. If Bill C-11 is anything to go by, it could serve to help unite journalists further to the singular cause of fixing or scrapping Bill C-18. After all, history is being repeated in many other ways, why not in this way as well?

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top