No Justin Trudeau, Other Countries ‘Quietly Backing’ Canada on Link Taxes is Not Helping You

The Canadian government is out of options to salvage their link tax law. Justin Trudeau’s latest comments is not helping him.

Let’s face it: the moment Canada passed the Online News Act, the battle over link taxes was lost. The platforms were set to block news links and, contrary to some of the many many talking points by big media lobby groups, the platforms don’t depend on news links at all. Conversely, the publishers have depended heavily on the traffic flowing from the platforms to their sites for additional ad revenue and subscriptions.

While some out there insisted that their talking points are true and that all of the evidence is just wrong because that’s what they believe, reality set in and what critics were saying all along proved to be true. After Facebook rolled out news link blocking, traffic for Facebook remained unchanged while traffic for publishers plunged.

All of this was predictable (and regularly predicted as well by critics) and repeated failed boycotts only further cemented the failure of the government and the media lobby’s precious legislation. The flailing by the media lobby to complain to the Competition Bureau is also destined to end in disappointment for the media lobby sooner or later.

Really, the logical thing to do at this stage is admit that things didn’t go as planned and work on rescinding the law before more damage can be unleashed onto news outlets. That’s really the only play that will actually restore sanity to the situation. Unfortunately, that isn’t what is happening, as it turns out.

Recently, reports have surfaced saying that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is saying that other countries are ‘quietly backing’ Canada in this fight. I wish I was joking, but here is a CBC article reporting this:

Trudeau says other countries are quietly backing Canada in fight over Online News Act

Trudeau, who recently returned from a meeting of G20 countries in India, told CBC’s Front Burner that other countries are encouraging his government to stand firm.

“Countries around the world are actually — and I heard this again when I was overseas — people saying, ‘Stand strong because this really matters,'” he told host Jayme Poisson.

“This is not an easy fight but it’s the right fight to be in.”

Mysteriously, he didn’t say which countries are saying this. Likely candidates in this would be France and Australia, but honestly, which countries are ‘quietly backing’ Canada on this doesn’t really matter.

The hard truth in this is that the platforms have been gradually backing away from news for quite some time now. In July of last year, I reported on the statistic of Facebook only having 4 in every 1,000 posts containing a news link. The decline in referral traffic has continued at least up to last month as news sites report a continued decline in traffic from Meta platforms. Further, Facebook, earlier this month, announced that they would be dropping Facebook news in France, the UK, and Germany.

There has been a gradual process of platforms divorcing them from news content for a long time internationally. It pretty much kills the thinking that if every country pushes similar laws, that the platforms would have no choice but to bend at the knee and start giving money away for linking. Again, platforms do not depend on news content by any stretch of the imagination. The only thing a link tax law accomplishes is making an expedited process of exiting news links in a specific country. Want to hasten the demise of the media sector in your country? Pass a link tax law.

Ultimately, saying that other countries are quietly backing Canada is not helping Trudeau’s cause here. It may give him some warm fuzzy feelings temporarily, but that’s all. If anything, the encouragement to double down on these laws should be taken as bad news for the media sector. It means that rescinding the law isn’t even close to being in the cards. As a result, there is no hope for media outlets on the horizon of the audiences coming back to their site any time soon. If a news outlet in question is affected by the news link blocking (and not everyone was, mercifully), then they better hope for bailout money. Otherwise, bankruptcy is probably an inevitable outcome if the outlet depended on web traffic to keep their business afloat.

(Via @MGeist)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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