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Facebook Canada head warns news posts could be blocked as last resort – Saanich News

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The head of Facebook Canada says it will try to avoid a repeat of the news blackout it imposed in Australia, so long as impending legislation doesn’t force it to dim the lights of democracy.

“It is never something we would ever want to do unless we really have no choice,” Kevin Chan told a parliamentary committee hearing Monday.

Facebook blocked all news on its platform in Australia for five days last month in response to proposed legislation that would require digital giants to pay legacy media outlets for linking to their work.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Australian counterpart agreed to continue “co-ordinating efforts” to ensure Big Tech revenues are shared more fairly with creators and media after Facebook struck a deal with the Australian government on a revised bill, which still demands tech titans fork over cash for linked content.

The standoff Down Under shone a spotlight on Facebook’s massive clout — despite the public relations disaster that ensued — as well as broader questions around shifting media business models and modes of information consumption.

Ottawa is working on a three-pronged response to the challenges that social media platforms and other online content providers pose to how media in Canada has been financed, regulated and policed in the past.

Part of that solution is a bill currently before the House of Commons to modernize the broadcasting regime in a way that could force internet steaming sites like Netflix and Spotify to make Canadian content more discoverable and to cough up financial contributions to bolster Canadian creators and producers.

Online hate is a focus of the second prong, as global observers continue to question Facebook’s role in tragedies ranging from the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand to deadly military violence directed at Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, along with racist posts in Canada.

The third prong seeks to address how major internet companies are taxed — with Australia providing a possible model — and in turn how traditional media companies are financially supported.

Facebook already props up struggling legacy news firms by directing traffic to their sites, Chan said, arguing that cumbersome regulation would hinder a free and open internet.

He pointed to Ontario-based Village Media, whose CEO estimates that Facebook and Google generated 24 million page views for the online community news company in January, amounting to $480,000 in ad revenue. Facebook Canada has also announced investments of $18 million in sustainable media models over six years.

Even if Facebook did choose to choke off news access, the platform doesn’t currently function as an essential source of information for most Canadians, Chan said. He cited a Ryerson Leadership Lab study showing that about one-quarter of the population gets its news from Facebook, below several other sources including television, which topped the list, but above newspapers and magazines.

“It’s not the case that Facebook is somehow synonymous to the internet or somehow synonymous with access to news,” he said.

Critics argue that paying publishers for links that they or their readers choose to post on social media — effectively a form of promotion — is backwards; if anything, news outlets should pay Facebook for the privilege of putting up de facto ads on its platform.

In a statement to The Canadian Press, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said the government is consulting with France and Australia over the “market imbalance between news media organizations and those who benefit from their work.”

“News is not free and has never been. Our position is clear: publishers must be adequately compensated for their work and we will support them as they deliver essential information for the benefit of our democracy and the health and well-being of our communities,” he said.

In Australia, Facebook secured concessions in an agreement with the government that allows more room for private deals between Facebook and media firms — such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp — and an extra round of negotiation with publishers before binding arbitration kicks in.

But settling that dust-up did little to pacify concerns over the might and motivations of Big Tech.

“People are increasingly concerned about the power of the web giants and the ravages of the spread of online hate speech, the impact of unfair competition of these giants on local media, and the total lack of justice when people work hard to pay their fair share and multinational web companies do everything to circumvent the rules,” said New Democrat MP Heather McPherson.

She accused the Liberal government of fostering a “cosy relationship” with digital giants that protects platforms’ profits at the expense of local media and Canadian taxpayers.

The government hopes to table legislation on fair remuneration this year, Guilbeault said.

It also aims to put forward within weeks a bill on online hate speech that would establish a regulator responsible for enforcing an updated definition of hate and ensuring illegal content comes down within 24 hours, subject to strict penalties — which Chan says Facebook would support.

“If we aren’t seen to be in good faith building the right systems to enforce against our standards, then absolutely we should be subject to some kind of penalty and held to account,” he said.

Lawmakers also raised concerns Monday about disinformation around COVID-19 vaccines as Canadians rely increasingly on digital communications to stay informed amid a pandemic, an issue that Chan says the company is trying to address while respecting freedom of expression.

“The challenge is, we do need to strike a balance between people’s ability to speak their minds and share their own feelings and ideas … and also prevent harmful misinformation about the vaccine from being spread,” Chan said.

Facebook has 35,000 moderators screening content around the world, including for misinformation and hate speech, he said.

Current Criminal Code provisions barring hate speech can seem increasingly feeble against the daily tide of content that washes up online.

“Bigoted speech is always out there,” said University of Windsor law professor Richard Moon in an interview. “But the rise of social media as the principal platforms for personal and public engagement has helped hateful views of different kinds move more into the mainstream.”

Moon pointed to algorithms on sites such as YouTube, owned by Google, that can wind up fanning inflammatory posts.

“In order to try to maintain the attention of the viewer, they make suggestions of videos that are more and more extreme because people are often more and more engaged and it holds their attention,” he said.

Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, says one reason hate has been so tough to rein in online is a lack of government “guidance.”

“The harm that it’s creating not only to victims who face it but to our sense of common decency as Canadians is eroding our faith in democracy,” he said in an interview.

“And all of it is happening because of how social media platforms have allowed fringe voices to take over.”

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IRCC: Canada welcomed over 35,000 new immigrants in June – Canada Immigration News

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Published on July 28th, 2021 at 05:00am EDT Updated on July 28th, 2021 at 07:14am EDT

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Canada recorded its strongest month for new permanent resident arrivals during the pandemic in June 2021, according to the office of Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, the minister says “We are going to make good on our commitment to land 401,000 new permanent residents.”

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Under its Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023, the Canadian government is seeking to welcome at least 401,000 new immigrants annually, beginning this year. Prior to the pandemic, this target was set at 341,000 newcomers.

The plan is the most ambitious in Canada’s history. Only once has Canada welcomed over 400,000 immigrants in a year. This took place in 1913, but Canadian immigration plummeted immediately after due to the onset of the First World War.

The minister’s office estimates that Canada welcomed over 35,000 new permanent residents in June. In follow up email correspondence with CIC News, the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said its preliminary figures show Canada welcomed 35,700 immigrants last month. This figure is significantly higher than Canada’s totals in recent months.

Canada got off to a strong start to the year. It welcomed 24,680 new immigrants in January but lost momentum in the months to follow. The country then welcomed 23,395 in February, 22,425 in March, and 21,155 in April, and 17,100 in May.

Altogether Canada has welcomed some 143,000 new permanent residents through the first six months of 2021 which remains well short of the pace it needs to welcome 401,000 newcomers by the end of this year.

In order to achieve this newcomer target, Canada needs to land another 258,000 immigrants — an average of 43,000 per month — over the rest of the year.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Welcoming this volume of immigration over the remaining six months will be difficult but there is an outside chance it can be achieved.

Prior to the pandemic Canada welcomed an average of 25,000 to 35,000 newcomers per month. Immigration levels tend to be higher in the warmer months as more newcomers arrive during favourable weather conditions and leading up to the start of the academic and business calendar in September.

In 2019, levels were stronger in the second half of the year compared to the first as Canada welcomed 180,000 newcomers between July and December.

Assuming Canada welcomes that same level in the second half of 2021, it will conclude the year at just over 320,000 new permanent residents which is still below its target.

However there are several tailwinds remaining that could propel Canada closer to its newcomer goal.

Some 23,000 additional Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders are now eligible to move to Canada after restrictions on them were eased on June 21st.

Anyone else newly approved for permanent residence can also immediately move to Canada as a result of this easing.

IRCC also introduced six new permanent residency streams that will enable some 90,000 international student graduates and essential workers to remain in Canada. The department’s goal is to process some 40,000 of these applications by the end of this year.

The third tailwind is also from the domestic pool of permanent residence candidates. IRCC has been breaking various Express Entry records throughout the year as it prioritizes Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates.

Draw sizes are larger than ever while cut-off scores are at record lows. According to IRCC, some 90 per cent of CEC candidates currently reside in Canada so it is easier for the department to transition them to permanent residence amid the pandemic than candidates abroad. IRCC has already issued nearly 100,000 Express Entry invitations this year which is almost double the invitations it issued at the same point in 2020. A significant portion of those invited during the pandemic should complete their permanent residence landing by the end of 2021.

The minister’s office told the Globe that the 45,100 permanent residence applications IRCC processed in June were the highest ever, which suggests that IRCC has the capacity to process and finalize the necessary number of applications to achieve its levels goal.

There are risks along the way that could disrupt IRCC’s plans. The global coronavirus situation remains volatile and things such as increased case levels and travel restrictions could get in the way. For example, Canada continues to restrict flights from its main newcomer source country, India.

A prolonging of this restriction could get in the way of IRCC’s goal. Further delays to COPR holder arrivals is another risk. IRCC is currently seeking to correspond with thousands of expired COPR holders to arrange their landing in Canada. This is a time-consuming process as IRCC needs to individually contact each COPR holder to ensure they have all the necessary documents to complete the immigration process.

Nonetheless, the coming months should see immigration levels remain high. There also remains a strong chance that monthly immigration totals will hit record highs by the end of the year due to the combination of more overseas arrivals and in-Canada applicants completing their landings.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit CanadaVisa.com to discover your Canadian immigration options.

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Sask. softball gets boost with Team Canada's bronze finish – CTV News Saskatoon

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SASKATOON —
Members of the Saskatchewan softball community say Team Canada’s bronze medal win will help the future of the sport.

“Watching the Olympics, seeing Team Canada, seeing players that they recognize and names they recognize. It sets a drive for them to compete at the sport, and train hard, and have a goal and a dream of playing in the Olympics,” said Bryan Kosteroski, president of the Saskatoon Amateur Softball Association.

One of the names on Team Canada’s roster that stood out for Kosteroski was Jennifer Gilbert, who was born in Saskatoon.

“Now you look at Jennifer Gilbert, she was born in Saskatoon and has that Saskatchewan connection, they’re going to look at that and they’re going to say to themselves ‘you know what? I’m going to train, and I’m going to train hard. I want to be at the Olympic games in the future,” Kosteroski said.

“That’s the goal with all of these young ladies, that’s why they’re playing the sport, and that’s their drive, to play in the Olympics.”

Guy Jacobson, executive director for Softball Saskatchewan, said exposure coming to the sport of softball is always a good thing, and Team Canada’s win should have a big impact.

“It gives young players, especially young female players aspiring to maybe go further in the sport, an opportunity to think that there’s some great things down the path for them,” Jacobson told CTV News.

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Disney to close almost all of its stores in Canada by next month – CBC.ca

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Disney is planning on closing down almost all of its retail stores in Canada by next month.

The iconic chain announced in March that it planned to close 60 locations across North America this year, but had no specific comment on its Canadian locations, which at the time numbered 18.

“While consumer behaviour has shifted toward online shopping, the global pandemic has changed what consumers expect from a retailer,” the company’s statement at the time said. “Disney will remain flexible in its approach and continue to evolve its retail strategy to best meet the needs of consumers when and where they want.”

Since then, two stores in B.C. and one in Ontario have closed. It now appears as though almost all the remaining stores are slated to close down within weeks.

The chain currently has three locations in Vancouver, two in Calgary, two in Edmonton, one in Winnipeg, one in Ottawa five in the Greater Toronto Area and two elsewhere in Ontario. According to the store locator map on the company’s Canadian website, all but two of the GTA stores say they will be closed as of Aug. 18.

A spokesperson for Disney did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the fate of the two GTA stores not apparently slated for closure according to the chain’s website: one in the Eaton Centre downtown, and one in Scarborough in the eastern end of the city.

Shift to online

Retail analyst Bruce Winder says Disney has likely found more efficient ways to drive its brand and merchandise.

He says he expects the company will eventually connect its e-commerce platform shopDisney to its subscription streaming service Disney+.

The closure of Disney stores in Canada is part of sweeping changes hitting the retail industry and malls, Winder says.

“Malls are going to change considerably in terms of what they do and how they operate and what kind of stores are in there,” he says.

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