Canadians are now less than a month from an election with more important issues on the table than I can remember. Climate change is, of course, the big one. I am hoping that Canadians will be diligent in sifting through the rhetoric to identify what party(ies) are truly committed to meaningful change. However climate change is not the only significant issue that voters need to consider.

Given what we know about Facebook and its Cambridge Analytica association with its efforts to subvert democracy around the world, Canadians must consider what political parties are saying about saving our democracy from the high tech behemoths which would destroy meaningful democracy for the sake of ever more corporate profits.

The reality of control and manipulation of information in 2019 makes George Orwell’s fictional nightmare of political control in a imagined 1984 look like child’s play. Facebook, Google and other social media can now employ the devastating power of computer algorithms to invade and manipulate almost all aspects of our lives. The scariest part is their ability to personalize their information manipulation. These algorithms can find exactly what resentments can be milked and taylor make fake—or aspects of real—information to be fed to individuals in order to cloud their understanding of issues and candidates.

Given all the well documented attacks on democracy by Facebook with its powerful data mining of personal lives; given the profitability and effectiveness of Cambridge Analytica(CA)–though one incarnation of CA  may be technically gone–it is obviously being widely cloned.

The really disturbing thing is that, given all this information about foreign social media, our government, rather than addressing the issue is giving special treatment to these democracy crippling social media giants—at the expense of genuine Canadian news sources!

According to Friends of Canadian Broadcasting (Friends) “There is no such thing as meaningful democracy without good, accurate, analytical journalism, and Canadian journalism is dying under government policies that give foreign news sources a deadly advantage with “billions in subsidies and exemptions—the same foreign corporations that are driving professional and reliable journalism into the ground.”

For example, Friends is calling on the next government to close the tax loophole that makes advertising on foreign digital media tax deductible, while buying an ad in traditional Canadian media is not.

Such a backward and outdated regulations favour foreign tech companies giving them a free ride that has caused a crisis in Canada’s media industry.

 

“If Ottawa were to close the internet advertising tax loophole, Canadian companies could still buy all the ads they want from foreign publishers like Facebook. But these would be treated like all other foreign advertising, and they would not be tax deductible,” wrote Friends Executive Director Daniel Bernhard in a Toronto Star column earlier this year. “I think the common thread we’ve had so far is that when given a choice between standing up for Canada’s interests or doing basically nothing, the government has gone with the latter,” Bernhard adds.

Bernhard estimates that closing tax loopholes for these  behemoth, democracy crippling, foreign news sources would “repatriate about $600 million that is currently going south for Canadian media who are required to tell the truth, follow the rules, and contribute to our society.” Bernhard adds that closing the loophole would be a clear message that the government of Canada values Canadian content and Canadian content producers, Both the NDP and Green Party have pledged to close the loophole.

How is it that our government allows foreign news sources like Facebook, Google, Netflix, that do not share our values and have no standards other than making a democracy corrupting quick buck,  to write the rules, overrunning our Canadian news sources and deceiving Canadians with their manipulative algorithms and fake news?

Instead of funding foreign, manipulative media giants our Canadian government should be providing stable and adequate funding for our Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. According to Friends  “CBC exists to inform, enlighten, and entertain, but after 30 years of cuts it’s practically on life support.” Their website has a petition to restore meaningful funding to the CBC and require manipulative foreign news sources to operate by Canadian standards if they want to remain in the Canadian market.

Given that neither the NDP nor the Greens have enough support to form a government–Pray for a minority government!

Norm Reynolds