The Media Wants You to Know They are Really Really Upset About the Consequences of Their Actions

After pushing for a link tax in the Online News Act, one outlet is expressing outrage that the results meant their online audience is disappearing.

The media lobby practically wrote the Online News Act with their heavy multi-year lobbying. They published tonnes and tonnes of misinformation and disinformation in order to sell the legislation. They repeatedly dismissed valid criticism towards their holy bill as confusion and misinformation. When those repeated predictions and criticisms came true to near perfection, lobbyists and supporters of the bill opted to go in complete denial even as reality set in for multiple sectors.

While some of those supporters began to realize that what they did was a terrible mistake, others, still hopped up on their own talking point supply, others still think that they are somehow winning the debate and demanding even more. The government, for their part, is still trying to push the Online News Act, meaning that the likelihood that the government will pull the sector from the brink is pretty low. This has led many small independent media owners to start seeing their own careers flashing before their eyes (which is a very understandable reaction, truth be told).

Yet, even as the damage set in, some media outlets still seem confused as to who is at fault for their impending demise – even though it’s obviously the fault of the government and those pushing for this link tax in the first place.

Despite all of the above, there are those that are still expressing anger that the medias actions actually have consequences. In a clearly hastily written op-ed in the Salt Wire (which would explain some of the… interesting… grammar techniques employed), one person in the media angrily wrote about what they thought of the situation. The article employs misleading data (which is not only par for the course for those pushing this bill, but really sad at this point given what we know now):

Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, stopped sharing news on Facebook and Instagram back in August. Before this, according to Reuters’ 2023 Digital News Report, 29 per cent of Canadians were using Facebook for news.

So, millions are already less informed.

And there will be millions more if Google follows through on its intent.

It has indicated it will no longer share links to Canadian news sites in searches on C-18 becomes law.

The thing that is misleading about this is that the statistics often pushed by supporters of the legislation is often highly cherry picked and warped to suit an agenda. Unlike many of these voices, we did an honest assessment of why people use Facebook. The conclusions are very unsurprising for anyone who actually use Facebook. People use Facebook primarily for communicating with each other – often with friends and family. Further, for most people, when news happens to appear in their feed, they may actually stop and click on it to read it. Otherwise, this is a passive experience where the news comes to them, not what the author describes as people using Facebook for the purposes of finding news articles.

Further, during the senate hearings on this, Meta made it perfectly clear that news content is highly replaceable. Despite some senators pushing back and saying that this is just what Meta wants them to believe, what Meta explained to senators about their own platform ended up coming true. Since the news link blocking, Meta’s traffic remained unchanged and their profits actually increased as well. Meanwhile, news publishers pages saw user engagement to their pages collapse. While I wouldn’t say that Meta is always truthful, in this case, they were giving government the straight goods here which could very easily be independently verified.

With Google largely expected to pull the plug on news links as well, it seems that even the Saltwire Op-Ed person admitted that this could actually happen – though quickly started to engage in moral panic as well:

According to the Canada’s Internet Factbook 2022, 47 per cent of Canadians say they usually search Google to get news.

Not having news links on Facebook or Google is particularly concerning when a matter is urgent and evolving.

Take our story about evacuation areas expanding due to out-of-control wildfires near Halifax this past spring, for example.

Seventy-seven per cent of the 50,000 people who read this important piece found it through online searches or social media.

What if next time, people don’t learn about fast-moving fires, or something as pressing, as quickly? It could be dangerous.

Such danger has already played out in Northwest Territories.

This is a very standard talking point by those pushing the Online News Act which ultimately didn’t hold any water. It echos the government shamefully politicizing the Canadian wildfires to try and score cheap political points. It got to the point where both the media and the government incorrectly said that Meta was blocking news links as a response to the wildfires (we published a simple timeline of events to debunk this myth). Ultimately, the goal was apparently to try and make it sound like Meta was endangering lives when the reality was that the media lobby and the government were the ones that were putting those lives in danger with their really badly thought out link tax.

So, what’s the solution to the angry Saltwire author? Apparently, the persons call closely mirrors News Media Canada and wants the Canadian government to clean up their mess:

Facebook and Google created — and profited from — a news habit relying on journalism from trusted sources. It’s irresponsible for them to break that after years of cultivating it.

Whether it’s a spreading wildfire, city troubles or a preventable death, it’s better for the places we love if more people know, not fewer.

News keeps us safe and smart. We learn about dangers and wrongs that need righting. And we also learn about resilience, triumphs, and breakthroughs, big and small.

Government and Big Tech need to work this out. And soon.

We just can’t afford to have fewer eyes on the world around us.

So, for this individual, this situation is entirely Google and Facebooks fault… even though they weren’t the ones pushing for this law in the first place and being pushed into the decisions they have either already made or intend on making in the weeks ahead. One can only imagine how many times that last bit was written as it seems to be leading one direction, then dramatically calling for compromise instead at the second to last paragraph.

It’s also worth pointing out that during Google’s senate appearance, they explained that less than 2% of search queries are news related. Further, their profits off of that were even less because Google News does not contain ads or any method of monetization. To suggest that the platforms rely heavily on news content for their profits is purely fantasy. As Meta proved, platforms can live without news links without a noticeable difference.

What overshadows this angry stamping of the feet is the fact that the large media companies put themselves in this position. As we’ve said over and over again, the only thing that has any promise in fixing this situation is the government rescinding the Online News Act. The total lack of media voices even contemplating this really adds to the evidence that Google is going to pull the plug on news links. For Google, the law is completely unworkable – which is an understandable position to have, all things considered.

The large media companies demanded a free lunch and went shoulder to the wheel to get it. Now, they are seeing that those actions have consequences. The hopes that the media can freeload off of the success of platforms are all but gone. The large media companies greed means that they will also be forced to sit out the digital revolution on top of it all. If they expect people like me to feel sorry for them because the consequences of their actions are finally catching up to them after their constant barrage of personal attacks, they have another thing coming.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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