Skip to main content

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault during a news conference on June 18, 2020 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The Liberal government will introduce legislation early this year that addresses how social-media companies should compensate Canadian news organizations, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault told MPs Friday.

The news media legislation will be in addition to another bill the Minister is planning to introduce that will create a new federal regulator to oversee how companies including Google and Facebook deal with illegal content such as hate speech and child pornography.

The content regulation bill will come “soon,” he said, while a bill related to news media will follow in the spring.

The Heritage Minister made the comments during a meeting of the Commons heritage committee, which also included appearances by three Facebook Canada officials.

“We know there’s a problem. We’ve recognized it for some time,” said Mr. Guilbeault, in relation to the news industry. “We will table a bill in the spring.”

He said Canada is looking closely at recent developments in other countries that are moving to require social-media companies to compensate news organizations for snippets of stories that appear on their platforms. Google and publishers in France announced a deal this month that would see the internet search giant sign individual licensing agreements with publishers. A similar discussion has taken a different turn in Australia, where Google and Facebook have threatened to shut down some of their services over a government proposal related to how the companies should compensate news organizations.

Heritage Minister says takedown rules coming, welcomes calls for new social-media regulator

Report calls for powerful new federal body to regulate social media

Earlier this month, Mr. Guilbeault posted a comment on Twitter about the dispute, stating that “we stand in solidarity with our Australian partners” and that “when facing the web giants, we must stand united.”

In response to questions from opposition MPs, Mr. Guilbeault declined to provide details as to how the federal government would intervene in the commercial relationship between news organizations and social media.

“Is there a model that we like more? If you look at the codes in Australia and France, they took very, very, very different approaches to tackle the same problem. France took more of a copyright approach. … Australia is looking more at market forces and recognizing that there’s an imbalance in the market … What we are doing with colleagues in the Heritage Department, taking into account our rules and institutions in Canada, [is asking] which model would give the best possible result.”

In November, the federal government introduced Bill C-10, which would bring foreign streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify under the Canadian content rules governed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

That same month, the government tabled Bill C-11, updating Canada’s private sector privacy laws, which will affect how large online companies manage the personal information of Canadians.

“Countries that have taken on social-media giants in the area of culture, on the question of online hate speech and on the media, honesty, there are few that have decided to do this,” Mr. Guilbeault said. “And to do it all in one year? I only know of one that’s doing it, and that’s Canada.”

Kevin Chan, Facebook Canada’s global director and head of public policy, told MPs that it’s good that news publishers and social-media companies are talking to reach agreements. “We agree that more needs to be done to support the future of journalism,” he said, but added that the system Australia is proposing, in which social-media companies pay news organizations when a story is shared, is not workable.

Facebook’s view, he said, is that it’s providing the news sector with free promotion worth hundreds of millions of dollars, because news sites benefit when people use social media to share story links that drive traffic to their websites.

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh, a former Saskatoon-based TV sports journalist, challenged Mr. Chan’s assessment, saying struggling news organizations don’t view Facebook’s role as a positive one.

“Newspapers are dropping like flies in this country,” he said. “And this is one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest issue right now in that industry, is they’re getting nothing from you.”

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.