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Canada to join Australia in fight against Facebook’s dominance
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault. Source: Brandon Sun.
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  • Canada has vowed to be the next country to make Facebook pay publishers for news content, following Australia's example in the crusade against big tech's power
  • Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault is in the process of crafting similar legislation to be unveiled in coming months
  • He recently spoke to his counterparts in Australia, France, Germany and Finland to discuss establishing a collaborative approach to Facebook's impact on the media
  • Canadian publishers have warned that without government action the country could lose 700 print journalism jobs out of a total 3100
  • They also said an approach similar to Australia's would allow media companies to recover C$620 million (roughly A$629 million) a year

Canada has vowed to be the next country to make Facebook pay publishers for news content, following Australia's example in the crusade against big tech's power.

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, in charge of crafting similar legislation to be unveiled in coming months, condemned Facebook's decision to remove news from it Australian platform and said it would not deter Ottawa.

"Canada is at the forefront of this battle ... we are really among the first group of countries around the world that are doing this," he said.

Guilbeault said one option is to adopt Australia's model, which requires Facebook and fellow Silicon Valley giant Google to reach payment deals with media outlets whose links drive activity on their services. The proposed laws provide a mandatory arbitration process if no deal can be reached.

Another option is to follow France's example, which requires large tech platforms to openly engage with publishers seeking compensation for use of news content.

"We are working to see which model would be the most appropriate," Guilbeault continued, adding that he spoke last week to his French, Australian, German and Finnish counterparts about working collaboratively.

"I suspect that soon we will have five, 10, 15 countries adopting similar rules ... is Facebook going to cut ties with Germany, with France?" he asked, suggesting that at some point Facebook's approach would become "totally unsustainable."

Last year, Canadian publishers warned of a potential market failure without government action. They said the Australian approach would allow media companies to recover C$620 million (roughly A$629 million) a year. Without action, they said, Canada could lose 700 print journalism jobs out of a total 3100.

However, Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, said Canada should aspire to Google's approach, where companies put money into content that provided added value.

"If we follow the Australian model ... we'll find ourself in much the same spot," he said. "Everybody loses. The media organisations lose ... Facebook loses."

Kevin Chan, head of public policy for Facebook Canada, added that there were "other options to support news in Canada that will more fairly benefit publishers of all sizes."

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