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Michael Taube: Should the Conservatives defend social media platforms like Facebook?

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The House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage witnessed a very strange scenario last week. Federal Conservative MPs have become powerful defenders of social media giants like Facebook, the same social media giants that frequently criticize conservatives in Canada and the Republican Party in the United States, and are linked to parties, ideas and progressive social causes.

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This happened during recent meetings on Bill C-18, the Online News Act. It is a controversial bill that would force social media platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter to pay media outlets and others for the huge amount of content they offer daily via hyperlinks.

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Google described the bill as a “link tax” that could “crack” its search engine and create a “regime that allows bad actors and those who peddle misinformation to thrive and profit.” “.

It is not difficult to understand why Pierre Poilievre and the Conservatives take this position against Bill C-18. It’s the principle, rather than the players, that’s right (so to speak). Ontario Premier Doug Ford takes a similar approach to dealing with opponents and critics, and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith believes in building bridges with those across the country. the political aisle.

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But still, how can conservatives in good conscience side with a social media giant like Facebook? While there have been occasional suggestions that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a libertarian-type thinker and free speech advocate, his actions and decisions often speak otherwise.

Facebook has suspended or banned some prominent (and sometimes controversial) Republicans from its platform, including former US President Donald Trump, Senator Rand Paul and House Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Barry Moore. Some Democrats and Liberals have faced similar wrath from the Facebook gods, but the numbers have been far fewer.

Politico revealed on Oct. 14, 2019, that Zuckerberg hosted “informal talks and small, off-the-record dinners with conservative reporters, commentators, and at least one Republican lawmaker.” It was done to discuss freedom of speech, possible partnerships – and, it is assumed, to dispel any preconceptions that he was biased against conservatives.

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These meetings turned out to be nothing more than window dressing.

It was revealed last year that Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated more than US$400 million to local election commissions dealing with COVID-19 and voting issues in the 2020 presidential election. efforts were meant to be non-partisan in nature. Leading Republicans were furious to find that the nonprofit that allegedly handed out most of Zuckerberg’s money, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, was tied to liberal, progressive and other left-leaning businesses.

Meanwhile, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said in September 2020 that a show clip linked to Chinese virologist Dr. Li-Meng Yan, who believes COVID-19 is man-made , has been “censored” by Facebook and Instagram. Rob Bluey, vice president of communications for the Heritage Foundation, suggested to Deseret News on October 16, 2020 that his think tank and news agency, The Daily Signal, had posts flagged by Facebook and others – but admitted “the problem is, can you document it?” Leftist journalist Glenn Greenwald told Fox News on October 6, 2021 that Facebook’s biggest problem is “not that it’s too powerful, but that he does not use that power to censor enough content on the Internet that offends the sensibilities and beliefs of Democrats.” Party leaders and their liberal supporters, who now control the White House, the entire executive and both houses of Congress.

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There have also been curious ties between Canada’s Liberals and Facebook. Kevin Chan, who once served as policy director for former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, has served as Facebook Canada’s public policy director for several years. Toronto Sun columnist Brian Lilley also pointed out on October 31 that “in the midst of the 2019 election, Facebook took down and deleted posts linked to a Toronto Sun column on a Liberal proposal to tax the sale of primary residences. “.

Poilievre and the Conservatives’ commitment to the independence of private enterprise is commendable. Alas, there is enormous risk in getting into bed with individuals and groups who oppose their ideas, values ​​and policies – and will always be on the other side of the debate.

Facebook can recognize the efforts of Canada’s Conservatives at this parliamentary committee, but will continue to attack them. When the Conservatives cry foul over the political biases of Facebook and other social media giants somewhere down the road, the Liberals, NDP and others will show this stark example with a shrug and a mocking laugh.

It’s a Catch-22, to be sure. Maybe that’s what the Trudeau Liberals were betting on.

Michael Taube is a columnist for Troy Media and Loonie Politics and was a speechwriter for former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

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