Shameful: Media, Government Politicizes Yellowknife Wildfire to Pressure Meta to Reverse News Link Decision

The media and the government have sunk to a whole new low as they take advantage of disaster to pressure Meta to reverse the news links decision.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: the current situation of Meta dropping support for news links is entirely the fault of the government. They listened to their lobbyist pals, dismissed all concerns, forged ahead and rammed through Bill C-18 into becoming law screaming “damn the consequences”, and now we are in the situation we are into today. That is the straight and honest truth about the situation today.

As many Canadian’s know, Canada is facing the worst wildfire season ever – again. Communities are being evacuated, people are being displaced, lives are being ruined, and a whole lot more. Numerous provinces are dealing with an insane amount of wildfires. I know personally because I live in BC which has been particularly hard hit. I find myself choking on smoke and dealing with the negative health effects of all the wildfires out there. At the same time, I count myself as a lucky one because there are those who are under evacuation order right now. I honestly can’t imagine being forced to flee my own home and wonder if all I’ll have left is a smouldering pit to return to. It’s unimaginable to me.

While things are bad in BC, things are also quite bad in the North West Territories. Numerous communities are being evacuated including the capital city of Yellowknife. I can’t honestly remember any other time a capital city in Canada had to be evacuated for any reason, let alone unprecedented wildfires. Peoples lives are at stake right now. Whether it is people being displaced, people now having to deal with the impacts this is having on their health, or worse, people being killed by this. My heart goes out to all of those who are impacted by the wildfires right now. What’s more, we are not in the clear by any means as we can expect more of this disastrous fire season to continue.

Unfortunately, it seems that the media and the government has a different priority in mind with all of this. That priority revolves around the question of “what’s in it for me?” This attitude alone is absolutely disgusting and shameful, bearing absolutely no resemblance to any semblance for the most basic levels of humanity. Simply put to the government and the media: THIS IS NOT THE TIME!

Yet, here we see the media just having absolutely no shame in their biased reporting. Examples are already popping up of this. For instance, here’s the first paragraph of a CBC article:

Evacuees from the devastating blazes threatening Yellowknife say the ongoing fight between Meta, the owner of Facebook, and Canada’s federal government over who should pay for news has made it harder to spread life-saving information about the wildfires in the Northwest Territories.

This alone is absolutely appalling. Still, the article continues to push their talking points of the Online News Act even as people’s lives are being ruined:

Bill C-18, which recently became law, forces large social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and others to compensate Canadian news publishers when their content is shared. Meta has pushed back against the law and made good on its threat to instead block news from being shared on its platforms in Canada.

As a result, content from news providers like the CBC, local newspaper The Yellowknifer and digital broadcaster Cabin Radio is being blocked, which means people can’t get or share critical information from news sources on Facebook and Instagram, two of the most popular social media sites.

The article tries to put the blame on Meta for this situation even though the blame is so obviously on the government that pushed such a terrible law.

Now, this is far from an isolated instance of the media and the government trying to politicize this disaster for their own selfish gains. Here’s a sample from the Vancouver Sun:

Officials in B.C. and beyond are calling Meta’s Facebook news ban a dangerous and unacceptable ploy as people scramble for information about devastating wildfires across the West.

The mayor of Ashcroft went on her community’s Facebook group to complain about her lack of ability to share news through the online giant, which was used by up to 50 per cent of Canadians to access their news before the block.

News outlets have been unable to post on Meta’s sites, including Facebook and Instagram, since earlier this month. The looming Online News Act will force social media companies to pay for news content shared on their sites — but Bill C-18 has yet to take effect, and Meta is alone so far in enforcing a ban.

Federal Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez called on the company to lift its news ban in light of the crisis. “What Meta is doing is totally unacceptable,” he told reporters Friday. “I warned them during conversations in the past of the risk of blocking news.”

Here’s a third example from The National Post:

With wildfires leading to evacuations in Yellowknife and Kelowna Friday, Meta should reverse its “unacceptable” and “reckless” decision to block news content on its platforms in Canada, Liberal government ministers said.

“I’m asking them to go back on their decision and allow people to have access to news and information in general,” Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez said during a press conference about the wildfires. Canadians and Canadian news outlets can’t currently post or share any news content on Facebook or Instagram.

Rodriguez, who was in charge of the Big Tech regulation file until his move to transport last month, said he’s warned Meta during past conversations about “the risk of blocking news.” He called Meta’s decision “unacceptable.”

Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said in an emailed statement the government is “deeply disappointed that Facebook has decided to be irresponsible, unreasonable, and continues to block news.”

This absolutely makes my blood boil. I’ll say it again: NOW IS NOT THE TIME!

The effort to turn this tragedy is absolutely shameful. People’s lives are in danger and are in the process of being completely upended. Turning this into a political opportunity is pure evil and insults the people who are affected by this tragedy that is unfolding. To anyone who says that it is perfectly acceptable to politicize this and use it as a political opportunity, I say this to you:

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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