Discussions around Bill C-18 (Online News Act), which is currently in the second reading phase in Canada’s Senate, are ongoing at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (CHPC).
The bill – which promises to “take into account” principles of freedom of expression and journalistic independence – passed in the House of Commons last December and is now just a step away from becoming law, is presented by its sponsors as a way to regulate digital news intermediaries in order to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace.
This seems to mostly come down to making platforms like Facebook and Google pay publishers for hosting links to news. And now, a senator is suggesting there may be a way of expanding this mandatory payment for links to platforms where creators just talk about the news.
Namely, Senator Paula Simons has shared with Ricochet Media that the Heritage Ministry has some interesting ideas that could lead to broadening the obligation, and cover a much broader crop of platforms.
Simons positions herself as a critic of the bill, describing it as bad public policy and something that will, in the long run, not actually help Canadian journalism.
Most of the criticism of the bill expresses concern that the bulk of the money taken from platforms sharing links will go to other big corporations – this time publishers and broadcasters, and also harm free speech.
But Simons appears more worried about giving massive powers to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as, essentially, the regulator of journalism – and when it comes to the links issue, the senator wants to know how to be sure that there’s money coming even if one day Google and Facebook cease to be profitable.
And so she asked Heritage Ministry staffers about this scenario, to be told they would “turn to TikTok.”
Simons – who expects C-18 to become law by June – said that she at first reacted by saying that TikTok doesn’t share news links. But the staffers replied, “TikTok shares news stories in other ways. It talks about the news.”
And even though the senator seems to think this could fall under fair-use, the Heritage Ministry personnel seemed unswayed by that argument.
“Lots of Canadians get their news from TikTok,” they persisted, hinting at one way the bill could be “creatively interpreted,” if passed.