I may have no choice but to register as a journalist and a news company with Facebook/Meta.

And that deeply concerns me.

On June 13, I wrote about how I wished to “boost” a post on Facebook. The post was on the Pipeline Online Facebook page and the particular post was to a news story on PipelineOnline.ca.

That story was “Poilievre speaks of the consequences of the relentless ideological drive to attack the energy sector.”

https://pipelineonline.ca/poilievre-speaks-of-relentless-ideological-drive-to-attack-the-energy-sector/

And Facebook/Meta rejected the ad. I elaborate on it here.

This, of course, led to some discussion on, what else, but Facebook. Why? Because there are no other choices, really.

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Facebook controls the field, the umpire, the bat, the ball, the rules and the rising of the sun in their universe. And the problem is there really is no way around it. There are no other true options. You can say there are, but the reality is otherwise. Which is why I was having this discussion on that very platform.

One of the people arguing with me pointed out, “You can register your site with search engines and pay for advertising on the internet. There are hundreds of millions of sites you can pay for advertising on the internet. You have zero right to tell a private business what to do just because it’s in your best “business” interests. That is ridiculous. You are wading into a political campaign with biased opinions. They are asking you to justify your desire to promote your opinions on their property. You are taking a very entitled opinion here. Private businesses have a legal right. They are asking nothing of you that they are not asking of journalists and reliable media outlets world wide.”

I pointed out that I published the entirety of a speech given by the leading candidate to replace the prime minister. That was the story. The whole story. There was no commentary in it. It was a news story.

And it wasn’t some kook in a tin foil hat spouting conspiracy theories. It was a speech to the largest sector in the Canadian economy – energy – on its home turf by a leading candidate.

Facebook is more than a private business. It is the de facto town square and common carrier in the 2020s. That carries a lot more then the usual “private business” argument.

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As for the argument that journalists have to register for accreditation in other venues, like the Centennial Cup or the Parliamentary Press Gallery, there is a profound difference here. I was a member of the press gallery for the Saskatchewan Legislature. I’ve covered other events requiring accreditation. At no time was I told what I could or could not report, say, or advertise. In this case, an ad promoting a news story about the words of the man with the best shot at being the next prime minister was expressly rejected.

If Poilievre’s speech is verboten, then what the hell is allowed? Who, among us, can say anything?

Pierre Poilevre at the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show in Weyburn, June 1, 2022. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

And we have history to show what happens in this situation. I strongly encourage you to read Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can read it for free right now on your Kindle app.

Very shortly after the Nazis came to power in Germany, journalists were required to register with the Ministry of Propaganda. It was known as the “Editors Law.” You can see a post about it from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here.

“The German Propaganda Ministry (through its Reich Press Chamber) assumed control over the Reich Association of the German Press, the guild which regulated entry into the profession. Under the new Editors Law, the association kept registries of “racially pure” editors and journalists, and excluded Jews and those married to Jews from the profession. Propaganda Ministry officials expected editors and journalists, who had to register with the Reich Press Chamber to work in the field, to follow mandates and specific instructions handed down by the ministry. In paragraph 14 of the law, the regime required editors to omit from publication anything “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home.”

The law was enacted on Oct. 4, 1933, within months of the Nazis coming to power.

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But Brian, you’re surely overreacting, aren’t you? After all, “Godwin’s Law” says that any threaded online discussion will eventually lead to comparisons to Nazis. In other words, if you mention Nazis, you’re obviously a kook, and should be discredited as such.

This comes at a time when the federal Liberal government under Justin Trudeau is seeking to bring in legislation, Bill C-11 to “control all that you see and here online,” according to National Post columnist Jesse Kline.

This is scary stuff. My ad rejection happened before Bill C-11 is enacted. What happens after? That was an ad. What about the story itself? Can it be rejected?

Such ads are now disallowed speech in what is effectively the town square of not only the nation, but the world.

As I said, there are no other real options. Twitter doesn’t come close. The same with LinkedIn, as the general public isn’t there. YouTube, owned by Google, demonetizes anything that it considers in the least bit controversial.

Meta owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatApp. Facebook has 2.93 billion users around the world. I can’t emphasise this enough: They are the town square.

I am an independent journalist, with my own independent news website. I ask hard questions and provide depth few other media do. I have, among my columnists, a former premier of Saskatchewan, business executive, oil and gas analyst, geologist, service rig owner, wellsite supervisor, University of Regina professor, business owner, podcaster, retired editor/communications specialist, the head of the Petroleum Technology Research Centre, and more to come. I carry additional copy from the Canadian Press and Associated Press. Pipeline Online is not just some guy with a blog, but a real news and opinion source with many Saskatchewan voices. If this was the 20th century, I might own a printing press. Today, it’s a website. But it’s real and legitimate news serving an underserviced sector of our economy.

And I don’t like the idea of having ads regarding my stories vetted, and rejected, by big social media. Will they reject stories next? That makes me really concerned about registering as a journalist with said big social media. If my stories don’t fit their mould, which has already been proven, then what?

In order to survive, I may not have a choice but to register with them. So much for speech being free.

 

Brian Zinchuk is editor and owner of Pipeline Online, Saskatchewan’s Energy News. He can be reached at brian.zinchuk@pipelineonline.ca.

 

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Facebook rejects boosted post of a Pipeline Online news story regarding Pierre Poilievre

Poilievre speaks of the consequences of the relentless ideological drive to attack the energy sector

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