By Lethbridge Herald Opinion on February 24, 2021.
On Thursday, Canada’s federal government announced it would make Facebook pay for news content after the social media giant banned users in Australia from sharing news from media sites.
The action taken by Facebook is alarming because it prevents its users from getting information from legitimate news sources like newspapers.
A strong independent media is a cornerstone of a strong democracy.
The media, in essence, is the conscience of our community as it performs its duty to keep the public informed.
Without strong local journalism, politicians, businesses and others have nobody to answer to.
We are a part of the checks and balances that keep a democracy surviving and thriving.
Facebook’s action in Australia is an affront to democracy, it’s an attack on the public’s right to know what is going on in their communities, their countries and in their world. That action is something that would be expected from a totalitarian regime, not from a company that is supposed to be about social interaction.
Facebook took its action over proposed legislation that would make the company pay publishers for news links on their site.
And Facebook should pay because we need a strong, vibrant independent media. That media is reliant upon advertising to survive and pay for the journalists who do the stories that keep our communities informed.
For newspapers to stay in business, we need the support of local business. But hypocritically, many local businesses will advertise on Facebook and other social media sites while expecting people in their communities to support them.
Those businesses are contributing to Facebook’s profits while destroying the ability of local media to survive.
We hear all the time from business and community leaders to shop local, to keep our pay cheques in the city to keep local business strong.
The Lethbridge Herald is a local business and has been a cornerstone of our community for well over a century. We need local support to stay in business, too.
We need local support to continue providing strong local journalism.
We who work here are neighbours with the businesses who want people to shop local yet don’t advertise locally.
Why should we support them when they don’t support us?
City businesses who advertise on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter are not supporting local business themselves. They are contributing to the demise of local journalism and they are hypocrites.
Newspaper jobs have been hit hard in recent years as more companies turned to the internet to advertise, a hit which has worsened during the pandemic.
Why should staff at Facebook who don’t contribute to the Lethbridge economy benefit from local business?
It’s a question all members of the community need to ask of themselves and the companies they patronize if residents care about local journalism.