Arts & Life
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OTTAWA — Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s face is postered across Winnipeg and other Canadian cities, as part of a campaign calling on internet giants to pay royalties to news media.
"Everyone, including Facebook, depends on quality content being produced," said Daniel Bernhard, the head of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a media advocacy group.
The group has created a "Wanted" poster with Zuckerberg’s face, accusing him of "theft of news content" in a campaign launching today.
The posters point to a website calling on Ottawa to follow Australia and France in making Facebook and Google pay a fee for the news content displayed on their platforms.
"It’s important that we enforce our rules and say, ‘You are selling ads against this content; you should pay for it,’" Bernhard said.
The House finance committee is currently studying the idea, alongside scores of other COVID-19 response measures for various industries.
Currently, people who search current-affairs topics or browse social media see the headline of a news report, but also the first sentences, or seconds of a video.
Many publishers have opted to put their content on so-called "accelerated mobile pages," in which an entire article appears when clicked on from Facebook or a Google search. That avoids paywalls and many of the ads newsrooms rely on, in exchange for more users seeing content from these media companies much more often than those with full paywalls.
The Australian government has asked regulators to implement a structure when the country’s media companies can ask web giants for compensation. France’s competition watchdog is overseeing similar negotiations.
Some have called this a "link tax," but Bernhard said the point is to funnel cash to local newsrooms instead of government coffers. He said the pandemic threatens the advertising dollars that prop up credible news outlets. If they closed, Facebook would rely even more on fringe websites for content.
"What was previously a really big problem is now a fatal threat, and the casualties have been mounting," Bernhard said.
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