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Tag: Canadian journalism

Old-fashioned typewriter with "fake news" text

Media, misinformation and Meta

Last month I debuted the Jaunty Journo Jargon column with a blurb about the history of journalism and the foundations for the press. This week, I’d like to talk about a less jaunty, timeless issue that is garnering much contemporary attention: misinformation.

This topic was highly relevant to my journalism courses in Ottawa for a few reasons. Firstly, the examination of misinformation through the years shows some of the critical ways it has shaped journalism. Secondly, it’s an issue that merits a special kind of attention from journalists today. Thirdly, it’s a topic that my first semester journalism professor, Sarah Everts, has some personal experience with.

Terminology is important. In class, we defined misinformation as being misguided, often widespread, information. Conversely, disinformation refers to a malicious, intentional attempt to misinform the public. Both are highly relevant topics of discussion, but misinformation is going to be what news readers are most familiar with, and what is often most dangerous.

As wide-spreading information became more attainable, the potential for fabrications naturally grew, but what makes misinformation so special is what goes into its transmission. It’s easier, and often more convincing, to spread falsehoods if you genuinely believe you are right.

So how do you know if you’re wrong? As a journalist, I’d like to give a special shout-out to the concept of journalistic standards. Confirming facts. Being accurate. Acting objectively. Publicizing the truth.


Meals on Wheels logo on ad announcing that the service is coming soon to Pincher Creek and volunteers are needed


These universally accepted cornerstones of journalism get their fame out of the necessity brought up by the potential for the efficient spread of misinformation under the guise of “news.” Essentially, we want you to know what makes us different.

Despite these values, however, the actual process of spreading information has become easier than ever. It’s not hard to see why. It’s everywhere. And it almost always ties back to social media. 

Professor Everts focused much of her research at Carleton University on the percentages of Canadians who take misinformation as fact, and the overlap with the percentages of Canadians who are confident they can differentiate the two.

A survey asked Canadians if they felt they could tell when something online is true, and presented them with four conspiracy theories about Covid-19. Fifty-seven per cent believed they could “easily distinguish conspiracy theories and misinformation from actual information about Covid-19.” Forty-six per cent believed at least one of the myths they were presented with.

Of the respondents, 49 per cent of those who believed Covid-19 was a bioweapon invented by the Chinese, and 58 per cent who believed Covid-19 is a cover-up to the illness inflicted by exposure to 5G wireless technology, believed they could easily distinguish what online information is fact.

Tying back to the discussion of journalistic standards, what stands out about the spread of misinformation like this is the distancing from facts, accuracy, objectivity and truth. 


Acorn earrings by Holly Yashi on ad for Blackburn Jewellers in Pincher Creek


This is a critical conversation today, because in the last week we’ve seen Meta, the tech giant that controls Facebook and Instagram, block Canadian news for Canadians.

The definition from federal Bill C-18, the legislation Meta says this decision is in response to, defines news with several requirements, most notably that of adhering to recognized process and principles of the journalistic profession; those standards.

That’s us.

The Beaverton, a Canadian satire publication, was also initially blocked, but contested and successfully overturned this by pointing out in an open letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg that they don’t employ journalistic standards. While their letter was funny, it was also incredibly sad to have the point driven home that in order to avoid the censorship of your content, you simply have to not abide by journalistic standards. 

So for Shootin’ the Breeze, whose Facebook page provided critical and potentially life-saving information about issues like the Kenow fire and Covid-19 is blocked, content creators who don’t value delivery accuracy are fair game. 

An open statement by Nick Clegg, Meta president, detailed why they felt this move was appropriate, citing among other things that Canadian news content “isn’t that important to [their] users.”

I wonder, is it important to you?


Have you heard, written in white chalk on a blackboard

Google and Meta plan to ban Canadian news

Have you heard the news?

Google and Meta, the biggest players in the world of social media, intend to start blocking Canadian news stories in response to the passage of Bill C-18.

“Real journalism, created by real journalists, continues to be demanded by Canadians and is vital to our democracy, but it costs real money,” Paul Deegan, president and CEO of News Media Canada, said after the Bill passed June 22.

That afternoon, Lisa Sygutek of the Crowsnest Pass Herald, Amanda Zimmer of the Claresholm Local Press, myself and other board members of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association, heard directly from Paul.

Board president Evan Jamison of the St. Albert Gazette and AWNA executive director Dennis Merrill have made several trips east to share information on behalf of Alberta newspapers at hearings regarding this bill. They have kept members apprised of progress with Bill C-18 and roadblocks along the way.

Collectively, I think we felt cautious optimism after the discussion with Paul, with an emphasis on the word cautious.

Lisa also felt positive about a class-action lawsuit she and the Pass Herald have launched against Google and Facebook on behalf of Canadian newspapers. This is a tale for another day.

Social media outlets earn big dollars from Canadian journalism. Every share of a news article equals a cha-ching on their cash register.

We benefit as well. Social media can drive traffic to the Shootin’ the Breeze website as it is a quick way to advise our followers of new content and breaking news.

For every fraction of a penny we earn as people scroll past a Google ad on the Breeze website, Google earns many, many, many times more. The same thing happens on Facebook. 

Meta and Google earn dollars to the pennies left to businesses that do the work. This applies to shared content of all kinds, from recipes to travel blogs, and is not limited to newspapers.


Two stockings, one red, one green, filled with candy on ad for Crowsnest Candy


When negotiations over C-18 began, it was said that Canadian media would stand unified in this bid for just compensation for the money social media outlets earn from their work.

However, some larger players quickly struck independent deals with Meta and Google. Only they and the flies on the wall know the details of the deals and the value of the compensation.

A big problem right now is that most of us lack a clear understanding of what losing and winning look like.

No one seems to know just how the news blocking will work.

When you consider the significant information Google and Meta hold about us all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine who’s in and who’s out.

It took only one day for Meta to spring into action against Bill C-18.

“We are confirming that news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada prior to the Online News Act (Bill C-18) taking effect,” Meta announced June 22.

The press release says, “As drafted, the legislation states that news outlets are in scope if they primarily report on, investigate or explain current issues or events of public interest.”

This encompasses virtually all Canadian media and, while they will continue to have access to their Facebook and Instagram accounts and pages, and to post to them, “some content will not be viewable in Canada.”

On June 29, Google announced its own plans to block and remove news in Canada on its search engine, aggregator and Discover app.


Dairy Queen menu items – chocolate-dipped cone, chicken fingers and fries, blizzard, deluxe stackburger, pink orange julius and hot fudge sundae, on an ad for Pincher Creek DQ location


While the Pincher Creek Echo no longer exists in a traditional print or digital format, Postmedia, its parent company, made a deal with Google last summer and is reportedly paid for news content.

In the same announcement last week, Google said it would end deals currently in place with Canadian publishers.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world where there will be winners and losers. It looks like the big social media dogs have decided they will simply take the ball and run with it rather than enter into negotiations with us little guys.

This may seem like a lot of talk about money. While it was nice to imagine generating more revenue (if only for a moment), the reality is that small independent publishers, like many of us in southwestern Alberta, are not in a good place to be staring revenue reduction in the face.

Yes, the dollars matter, but it’s about more than that to me and to every community newspaper publisher I know.

There is a difference between news and journalism, and what Google and Meta are doing stands to give fake news an opportunity to thrive.

I’ve hated the term since former U.S. president Donald Trump made it popular and overused it, but it is real.

Canadian publishers are held to ethical standards and accountable for their news presentation.

Have you heard, is not how any news article should begin unless it is clearly marked as editorial content. Word on the street is not always true and little accountability exists when it’s not, whether intentionally or simply in error.



As a publisher, my integrity is on the line every time I write an article or print one by my staff. That even goes to letters to the editor — when we know something is incorrect, hateful or offside, it either doesn’t run or is discussed with the author and corrected.

We are human and when we make mistakes our team owns them, corrects them and offers a sincere apology.

We are journalists and integrity is at the heart of what we do.

As someone dedicated to community service, I do my utmost to make sure people know of emergency-room closures, wild weather alerts and evacuation notices. My team members do the same.

In preparation for a news-blocking scenario, we are working on some “Plan Bs” in the background. We will do everything within our power to ensure you receive important and factual information in a timely manner. More than that, we will continue sharing community stories and keeping you connected with your neighbours.

Social media has changed greatly over the past 15 years. Facebook was once a place for connecting with family and friends. Now it’s hard to find those types of posts when you log on.

Anonymity has also created a breeding ground for misinformation and hatred and I shudder what they will look like down the road.

Our followers will find the Breeze website a pleasant, interactive space as we shift our focus from sharing content on social media to turning into a community hub for southwestern Alberta.

Google and Meta have been testing news blocking over the winter and spring, and I’m sure we will see significant changes in the near future. 

Meta’s press statement closes with, “While these product tests are temporary, we intend to end the availability of news content in Canada permanently following the passage of Bill C-18.”