Political Hypocrisy: Heritage Minister Posts Links on Facebook, Buys Ads

He’s long said that “big tech” has too much money and that a link tax is needed. Now, the Heritage Minister is seen doing what he calls “immoral”.

Canadian Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbeault, has been a big multinational corporation cheerleader. Despite all common sense, the Minister has been pushing for a link tax law for some time. Among his arguments is that “big tech” has far too much money. He even went so far as to say that a link of a link tax law is “immoral“.

Now, the Minister’s Facebook activity is under scrutiny and what it shows paints a pretty vivid picture of political hypocrisy. Michael Geist is noting that the minister has spent quite a chunk of change on ad campaigns. He apparently ran 54 ad campaigns on Facebook, spending roughly $10,000. Apparently, that isn’t the only thing he did either:

Guilbeault is hardly alone in this regard with the majority of the Heritage committee also personally advertising on Facebook. Liberal MPs Marci Ien, Tim Louis, Lyne Bessette, and Julie Dabrusin have all spent thousands of dollars on Facebook ads. Other committee members such as Heather McPherson, Alain Rayes, Anthony Housefather, Scott Aitchison, and Martin Shields have also advertised on Facebook. Given their use of Facebook for advertising purposes, the opposition to similar government advertising is hard to square.

More difficult is Guilbeault’s regular posting of news articles and videos on Facebook, where over the past year he has shared more than a dozen articles and posted at least ten videos that use third party broadcaster content. The shared articles come from a wide range of news sources including the Journal de Montreal, La Presse, Global News, and the Toronto Star. Given that there was no payment for these links, one wonders if Guilbeault thinks these are also immoral.

The video use raises more questions. Rather than post links, Guilbeault has at times made a copy of the video and posted it directly to Facebook. For example, this post features his full appearance on Tout le Monde en Parle. The segment is available online and could be linked, but Guilbeault instead made a copy of the 14 minute appearance and uploaded it himself, thereby denying the referral to the original broadcaster. Did he obtain permission or a licence? Does he think that posting a full 14 minute video is fair dealing? In fact, he’s done the same thing many times, including to videos he has copied and uploaded where he is criticizing the Internet platforms for their practices. Perhaps a closer examination of his own social media practices are in order.

We have long argued that links being shared is not only moral and perfectly normal, but also a very healthy thing for both the Internet and the publishers the activity sends traffic to. That is the very activity that the Minister calls “immoral” simply because publishers don’t get paid for this in the process. It’s exceedingly backwards thinking given the enormous benefits publishers have obtained out of this whole deal. The activity is free and they get a benefit from it all. Yet, somehow, this activity, that is arguably fair dealing, is somehow not right in the Minister’s world. That alone really tells the story that the Minister really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Add to the fact that the Minister is engaging in the very activity that he so loudly objects to and it removes all doubt that he doesn’t know what he is saying or doing on this matter. In his own view, his very activity is an affront to everything he currently stands for. Not only is this effectively piracy in his view, he also proves the point that the linking activity has a net benefit in the first place. Why else would he engage in this activity if he didn’t think it helped him in some way? Moreover, does he feel his linking activity supports the very publishers he so ademantly supports or is his own activity, in his view, depriving those journalists that made him look so good in the first place?

Ultimately, these actions are either a betrayal of his own beliefs or a betrayal of the very publishers he has so openly said he supports. It’s ultimately a lose-lose situation for him in the end. If anything, this is further evidence of just how ridiculous this whole link tax idea is in the first place. It’s also another sign that this whole campaign to implement this link tax law needs to be shelved.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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