On March 2, 2021, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy for Canada, Kevin Chan, did an online interview with The Logic’s Murad Hemmadi. News Media Canada would like to put on the public record its response to some of the statements made by Mr. Chan.
John Hinds, News Media Canada’s president and CEO, is available for interviews to address our concerns with these responses from Mr. Chan. Please contact him via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mr. Chan asserted in The Logic interview that the distribution value to publishers of posting their content on our platform is in the order of several hundreds of millions of dollars.
News Media Canada Response: Facebook has used this statement repeatedly but has never laid out the methodology it used to determine this supposed value of posting their material. What is Facebook hiding by not being transparent?
An argument can also be made that Facebook enticed publishers to use the platform, thus creating a dependence that has led to an unbalanced power structure. And certainly the current situation is that Facebook is such a powerful platform that news publishers have no choice but to use it.
What Mr. Chan failed to mention is that Facebook is a gateway company to the internet in the same way as Google. Both companies are also monopoly gateways and there is no alternative choice. Imagine you were a bread manufacturer and there was only one grocer in the country who allowed you to put your bread on their shelf, but they refused to pay you. The grocer tells you that you should consider yourself lucky and they are doing you a favour that is worth a lot of money. If you don’t like it, you have no alternative because they are the only grocer. That is when you know there is a monopoly that needs to be regulated.
- Mr. Chan stated that there have been no negotiations yet with Canadian news publishers.
News Media Canada Response: Canadian news publishers and the Minister agree we need legislation to ensure there are fair negotiations and a code of conduct. We saw Facebook make threats but finally agree to compensate news publishers in Australia. That behaviour shows it does not want to pay willingly and will only come to the negotiating table when legislation is passed. A year ago, Canadian publishers did, in fact, meet with Mr. Chan, who said that the Australian legislation would not come to Canada.
- In The Logic interview, Mr. Chan refused to divulge how much of Facebook’s global $1 billion commitment to fund news content will be going to Canadian news publishers.
News Media Canada Response: It’s disappointing that Facebook cannot give a ballpark figure about how much it intends to pay for Canadian content. Given it has such confidence in telling us the value to publishers of publishing their content on Facebook, it’s hard to fathom why Facebook can’t quantify the value of the content to the platform itself. This is yet another way that Facebook refuses to be transparent. A non-transparent monopoly is one that should be regulated.
- Finally, Mr. Chan told Murad Hemmadi that if a regulatory framework doesn’t work for a platform (referring to Australian legislation), then exiting a news market can be an appropriate response.
News Media Canada Response: It is extremely concerning that Facebook believes exiting the Canadian market is a viable option if it doesn’t like the measures the Canadian government is planning to take to force Facebook and Google to pay for the content they use on their platforms. It is a clear sign they are more than willing to use their market powers to try to intimidate the federal government. The Australian Prime Minister said it best when he stated that they may be changing the world, but they shouldn’t be running the world. Sovereign nations such as Canada won’t be blackmailed by American monopolies.
News Media Canada supports the Canadian government’s intentions to finally address the power imbalance between the tech giants Facebook and Google and the news media industry and force the social media companies to fairly compensate publishers for the use of their content.