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.”
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca
Tokyo reported 5,042 new daily coronavirus cases on Thursday, hitting a record since the pandemic began as the infections surge in the Japanese capital hosting the Olympics.
The additional cases brought the total for Tokyo to 236,138, about a quarter of the national total. Japan reported more than 14,000 cases on Wednesday for a total of 970,000.
Tokyo has been under a state of emergency since mid-July, and four other areas have since been added and extended until Aug. 31. But the measures, basically a ban on alcohol in restaurants and bars and their shorter hours, are increasingly ignored by the public, which has become tired of restrictions.
“We need to tackle the situation as we now have a stronger sense of urgency,” Prime Minister Yosihide Suga told reporters, referring to Tokyo’s new record exceeding 5,000 cases for the first time. “The infections are expanding at the pace we have never experienced before.”
Suga, who has been criticized for insisting on hosting the Olympics despite the coronavirus spreading, says there is no evidence linking the surge in cases to the July 23-Aug. 8 Games. He urged people to firmly stick to the emergency requests and stay home despite the summer vacation.
Alarmed by the pace of the spread, some experts have called for a current state of emergency in Tokyo and five other areas to be expanded nationwide.
Instead, Suga on Thursday announced a milder version of the emergency measures in eight prefectures, including Fukushima in the east and Kumamoto in the south, expanding the areas to 13 prefectures. The less-stringent measures allow prefectural heads to target specific towns but cannot order business closures.
Suga also pledged to “prevent the further spread of the virus by firmly carrying out vaccinations.”
Experts say people are not cooperating because many feel less of a sense of urgency about the pandemic while the Olympics are going ahead and Suga’s government keeps issuing the same requests for people to stay at home.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 200.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a case tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.2 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines will extend tighter coronavirus restrictions to include three areas, including a province adjoining the capital region, to prevent the spread of the delta variant, the president’s office said on Thursday. The tougher restrictions, already due to take effect in metropolitan Manila from Aug. 6, will also be imposed in Laguna province and the cities of Cagayan De Oro and Iloilo, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement
In Africa, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says he came down with COVID-19 last week and if he had not been vaccinated earlier, “I would not be here by now.” An audibly ill John Nkengasong told reporters that despite his vaccination in April, “the severity of the attack is unbearable.” He cited his experience to push back against vaccine hesitancy.
African Union officials said on Thursday that the body had begun shipping COVID-19 vaccine doses acquired through a Johnson & Johnson deal, but they raised alarm at the pace of total deliveries to a region where only 1.5 per cent of people are vaccinated.
In the Americas, the delta variant is “highly worrisome” as the mutation has spread to nearly two dozen countries across the Americas, officials with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) told reporters.
Mexico’s Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 20,685 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest daily jump since late January, and 611 fatalities.
In the Middle East, Iran again reported a fresh single-day high on Wednesday, with 39,357 new cases of COVID-19. The country reported 409 additional deaths, bringing the reported COVID-related death toll to 92,194.
In Europe, Britain will scrap quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers returning to England and Scotland from France, rowing back on a rule that had infuriated French politicians and thrown millions of holidays into confusion.
-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 9 a.m. ET
Here's what Canada did while you were sleeping on day 13 of Tokyo Olympics – CTV News
HALIBURTON, ONT. —
Canada added two medals to its collection overnight on day 13, bringing home silver in women’s canoe sprint and a bronze in women’s cycling.
Here’s a look at some of the 2020 Summer Olympic events you may have missed overnight.
Lauriane Genest won Canada’s first-ever medal in the keirin, capturing bronze in the event. New Zealand’s Ellesse Andrews took silver while Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands captured gold.
The keirin is an eight-lap race amongst six cyclists who start the race following behind a motorized pace bike, as it accelerates to top speed of 50 km/hr. The pace bike moves off the track with two laps to go before cyclists jockey for positions to finish the race.
On the water
Canada’s Laurence Vincent-Lapointe captured canoe sprint silver in the women’s C-1 200-metre race on Thursday, taking second place in 46.786 seconds. American Nevin Harrison took the gold with a time of 45.932, while Ukraine’s Liudmyla Luzan claimed bronze at Sea Forest Waterway. Canadian teammate Katie Vincent finished eighth in 47.834 seconds.
Damian Warner is inching closer to the top of the podium, continuing to hold a commanding lead in the decathlon with only two events left to complete. The Canadian posted an Olympic decathlon record of 13.46 seconds in the 110-metre hurdles before going on to place third in discus. Warner also tied a personal best in pole vault after clearing 4.90 metres on Thursday.
Warner leads with just javelin and the 1,500 metre left in the competition. Australian Ashley Moloney sits in second place while fellow Canadian Pierce LePage rounds out the top three. The last two events are set for later Thursday.
Canada’s medal chances were dashed after Meaghan Benfeito failed to qualify for 10-metre platform diving final. The 32-year-old missed the 12th and final qualifying spot on her fourth dive of the day, finishing in the 13th spot, wrapping up her time at the Tokyo Olympics.
On the track
The Canadian men’s 4×100-metre relay team is off to the finals after sprinter Andre De Grasse made a late comeback for the team, crossing the finish line in second place, just hours after winning himself a gold medal in the 200-metre sprint.
Canada’s Brooke Henderson had a better day on the course, bouncing back to shoot a 3-under 68 in the second round of the women’s golf tournament. Henderson is currently tied for the 34th spot, sitting at even par.
The cost of down payments in Canadian cities skyrocketed in 2021, new data shows – CTV News
Skyrocketing housing prices in 2021 are driving up how long it would take for homebuyers to save for a down payment, new data shows.
The National Bank of Canada (NBC)’s latest report found that during the second quarter of 2021, housing affordability has worsened by the widest margin in 27 years. The report examined housing and mortgage trends in 10 cities across the country.
To save up enough for a down payment for an average home in Canada, it would take just short of six years – or 69 months – if you saved at a rate of 10 per cent of their median pre-tax household income.
This marked a notable jump compared to the 57 months of saving at that same rate this time last year.
And, if you live in Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto, it could take decades – assuming you put away 10 per cent of your before-tax household income.
Here’s a breakdown of how much time it would take to save up for a down payment for an average home or condo, if you saved a tenth of your pre-tax income:
- Standing head and shoulders above the other cities, it would take a staggering 34 years – or 411 months – of saving to be able to afford a home here.
- The average home here costs $1.47 million.
- It would take just under five years – 57 months — to save up enough for a down payment on an average condo in Vancouver.
- An estimated 28 years, or 338 months, of saving to make a down payment for a non-condo home, with the total price of a representative home set at $1.03M.
- It would take 47 months of saving to afford a condo down payment.
- To save enough for a down payment for a home here would take 26.5 years – or 318 months.
- The average home here costs approximately $1.2 million.
- To afford a condo down payment here would take just under five years, or 56 months.
- At a 10-per-cent saving rate, you’re looking at 6.5 years of saving up to afford a down payment for a home — and around four years to afford a condo in this city.
- Trying to save up a home down payment in Canada’s capital could take a little over four years.
- Saving up a tenth of your pre-tax earnings for 3.5 years would mean you could afford a down payment on a representative home in Montreal
- The total price tag of a non-condo home sits at $492,777.
- Trying to afford a condo here could take you just a little more than two and a half years of saving.
- You’d need to save up for just under three years – or 34 months – to afford a home here, or about half that time to afford a condo.
- Potential homebuyers were looking at 2.5 years – or 30 months – of saving if you’re looking to make a down payment on a non-condo home.
- The average total cost of a non-condo home was $428,600.
- Affording a down payment on a $370,000 home could take homebuyers about 2.3 years worth of saving.
- Home buyers needed 18 months to save up a down payment on a condo.
- The price of a representative home in Quebec’s capital is $330 742 and it would take the average Canadian household just over two years – or 28 months — to save up a down payment.
Researchers also found mortgage payments now make up 45 per cent of the income for a representative household, slightly above the average amount (43 per cent of income) needed in 1980.
NBC noted that during most of the past two years, income growth and lower interest rates have been conducive to improving affordability.
But 2021 has been a stark contrast, the bank said, with home price increases outpacing income growth and mortgage interest rates also rising.
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