Pablo Rodriguez Calling Canadian Creators Loopholes is a Warning Shot Against Online News Sites

Pablo Rodriguez has called Canadian digital first creators “loopholes”. The dismissal should be concerning to independent online news outlets.

Yesterday, the Canadian government rejected the critical amendment that fixed Bill C-11’s biggest problem. In making up an obviously bullshit excuse, the government lied, saying that it’s about “flexibility”. Further, the government gave a massive slap in the face to online creators everywhere, dismissing them as little more than “loopholes”.

The rejection puts to rest any doubt about what the true intent of the bill is. That is regulating user generated content. If it ruins the livelihoods of over 100,000 Canadian creators online, then for the government, that is considered “mission accomplished”. This is all part of the Canadian governments war on online innovation in Canada.

In the process of all of this, Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez repeated the talking point that Canadian creators are little more than “loopholes”. Not surprisingly, this has angered many and is being called out by university law professor, Michael Geist:

Yet moments before the House of Commons would begin debate on the government’s motion, Rodriguez changed course with a series of tweets that included a new justification premised on rejecting “amendments that create loopholes.”

Rodriguez’s statement suggests that somehow removing digital creators from the ambit of the legislation creates a loophole. From a substantive perspective, this is disinformation. The narrowly crafted amendment by two Trudeau-appointed Senators is specifically designed to meet Rodriguez’s stated objectives. The Internet platforms will still be brought into the Broadcasting Act as the use case Rodriguez often cites – a Weeknd song on Spotify and Youtube should be treated the same by the Act – would be met. The only change is to ensure that user content would be excluded, which Rodriguez insists is the policy objective. This is not a legal loophole.

But more importantly, Canadian digital creators are not loopholes and characterizing efforts to address their concerns as such is a stain on the Heritage Minister. They may not belong to well established lobby groups, make political donations, or hold lavish conferences that provide politicians with big platforms, but their careers and livelihoods are not for this government or this minister to put at risk. For months, they have made their case before MPs and Senators. Many of these creators, participating in a political process for the first time, engaged in the hope that the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the government would demonstrate some concern for their concerns. The Senate took the time to hear them and agreed that this was not about siding with tech companies, but about siding with Canadian creators. For Rodriguez, government MPs, and representatives from the NDP and Bloc to ignore them and reject the Senate fix that would have little negative consequence for anyone else is shameful. And for other creator groups such as the DOC, CMPA, and SOCAN to throw their fellow creators under the bus is unconscionable.

The disrespectful treatment that the Canadian government has given to Canadians has been nothing short of deplorable here. From the outright attacks on creators to the politically motivated “investigations” on anyone who dares to raise their concerns about the bill, this has been an outright attack on Canadian creators who not only chose to make a go at a new career on platforms, but also finding success as well.

While the attacks on Canadians from the government have been downright scary, it is worth pointing out that even after Bill C-11, the Canadian government is far from done. There’s also Bill C-18 which is an outright attack on independent Canadian journalists and news outlets such as us. Already, independent Canadian news outlets like us, the same ones that actually do a great job at setting the Bill C-11 record straight like us, have been subject to attacks from Liberal MP’s, accusing us of being “not news”. It’s an echo of calling digital first creators of being “not art”. In short, it’s all part of an effort to demonize Canadian’s for the crimes of not being part of the establishment.

Indeed, Canadian’s have to increasingly rely on news sites like us after the media has been increasingly pumping out misinformation and disinformation about both Bill C-11 and Bill C-18. As a result, small independent news outlets had to do double duty of not only reporting the news, but also battling media disinformation as well on the subject. Obviously, this is something both the media and the government can’t have.

So, with Bill C-18, the effort is clear: to silence those speaking the truth on these subjects and more closely control the stream of information Canadian’s receive. The classic way to silence criticism is to cut off the supply of funding news outlets like us have. It’s difficult to do so directly, but by either cutting off links to large platforms or encouraging platforms to downrank news articles, the goal is to ensure that ad impressions and possible subscriptions dry up in the process. Demonizing smaller outlets as being somehow unreliable or being “opinion only” is also plays a part in this.

Fortunately, even if platforms refuse to host our links, Freezenet has already gone through a long process of bullet-proofing to ensure that if our news links are no longer visible on platforms, we have other methods already in play to attract an audience. We took a very unusual and slower approach to build up Freezenet and, coincidentally enough, it’ll likely pay off by allowing us to survive this government led onslaught to silence criticisms. We were an early adopter of adaptation.

Unfortunately, other news outlets aren’t going to be so lucky. Many have relied heavily on a perfectly reasonable and respectable strategy of attracting audiences through news feeds on multiple platforms. Cutting them off from such platforms can be an economic death sentence. Many will likely not have a backup plan to adapt to this and, as such, we could very well see loads of closures because of it. This represents a significant loss in corporate and government accountability. What’s more, it’ll make it substantially tougher for Canadian’s to tell their stories. No matter how you slice it, we are seeing a massive, and potentially unprecedented, assault on journalism.

What’s more, the treatment of digital first creators acts as a preview for the treatment independent news outlets are going to get. That preview seems to be a relentless attack on the careers of journalism without a shred of remorse. What we are witnessing is just how much the Liberal government can strong arm the Senate into submission – and we’ll find out soon if the Senate will resist or just cave under pressure. If you are an independent online journalist and are shocked by the treatment of digital first creators, guess what? You are next for the governments regulatory firing squad. Your cries for mercy will not be heeded.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

Leave a Reply

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

%d bloggers like this: