As officials from around the world get set to turn a microscope on big tech in Ottawa this week, FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting has released a satirical video taking the federal government to task for continuing to allow foreign digital services to operate in Canada with little to no regulation.
The video’s release comes on the eve of an Ottawa meeting of the International Grand Committee of Big Data, Privacy and Democracy – a group of parliamentarians from 13 countries investigating big tech. Subpoenas went out in February to Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, among others. It won’t be evident until Tuesday morning whether those companies will send their CEOs or representatives.
Featuring a fictitious Facebook executive thanking Canada for special treatment, the video was produced by FRIENDS in partnership with prankster activist group The Yes Men. It highlights what FRIENDS says amounts to Canada’s generous subsidization of digital giants like Facebook.
“While many governments have buckled to internal pressure and are distancing themselves from our company, Canada stands resolutely by our side,” says actor Andy Bichlbaum in the tongue-in-cheek video.
“Last year you subsidized digital platforms like Facebook to the tune of $1.6 billion dollars, more than the entire CBC budget…Facebook has supplanted the CBC as Canada’s number one news source. Where an entitled elite of professional journalists once monopolized public discourse, Facebook ‘say I’s’ now help 23 million Canadians bring the truth to each other.”
“The Facebook Loves Canada campaign isn’t real, but it should be: Canada is unique among developed nations in its permissive approach to Facebook”, said Daniel Bernhard, FRIENDS’ executive director, in a press release. “We’re not just condoning Facebook’s bad behaviour – we’re actually supporting it with tax dollars. Canadian government subsidies to foreign digital ad platforms like Facebook cost us more than $1.6 billion in 2018 – more than we spent on the CBC and the new tax measures for journalism combined. FRIENDS is calling on the government to immediately close the internet advertising tax loophole that finances mega-rich US corporations at the direct expense of Canadian journalism. All major parties must make public commitments to keep the loophole closed for good.”
The loophole FRIENDS wants closed allows advertisers to deduct the cost of ads placed on foreign internet media platforms like YouTube and Google. Friends estimates closing that loophole would divert about $500 million in annual online ad spending back to Canadian online platforms.
FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting is a watchdog group advocating for Canadian public broadcasting, journalism and storytelling on air, and online. It is not affiliated with any broadcaster or political party.
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