Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Facebook Indicates It Will Prohibit Canadian News on Its Platform if Canada Proceeds With Publisher Linking Fees

Daniel Van Bloom, CNet:

In the middle of February, as the Australian government was passing a bill that would force Google and Facebook to pay publishers for news that surfaces on their platforms, Australia’s 16 million users found that news content had vanished from Facebook’s website and app. Now, with Canada’s government mulling similar legislation, it’s possible the story could repeat itself across the Pacific.

Sitting before a parliamentary committee on Monday, Facebook Canada’s head of policy, Kevin Chan, said that any law that forces Facebook to pay publishers each time their news content is shared on its platform “fundamentally breaks the premise of how a free and open internet works,” reports local media.

While I generally agree with arguments that these link taxes are foolish, I get the argument as it pertains to non-U.S. media, and links on Facebook and Google. The two companies have established a duopoly in advertising on the web — 40% of the world’s advertising spending for ads that appear on the open web goes through Google, according to Jounce, and around 80% of digital ad money in Canada is spent with either Facebook or Google — and both companies are based in California. That means that a massive amount of the funding that keeps media alive around the world has been claimed by two American companies, both of which are happy to send users to media organizations’ websites. It is like they are playing both sides of the market.

But it is ridiculous to demand a license for linking. As Michael Geist writes, “linking is a normal, commonly used practice that hundreds of millions of people engage in every day”. Requiring some sort of fee or license to link to media websites is a terrible solution, even if it is only applied to the same companies that have seized control of their revenue stream. We need a better long-term model for ensuring journalism’s solvency. We also need this online advertising duopoly — or triopoly — to be restricted so worldwide spending does not disproportionately end up on the west coast of the United States.