A sweet deal, but not for you

By Craig Westcott / August 18, 2023

Some people are getting their tights in a twist because Facebook and Google have stopped sharing links to new stories on their social media platforms.

But there’s an even bigger scandal that nobody is talking about: that social media companies are still not paying taxes in Canada.

Under federal Finance Minister Christa Freeland, and her predecessors, Canada does not charge the multibillion-dollar social media behemoths any taxes on the millions in profits they rake in from selling Canadians’ personal information to other companies, and from selling advertising around the personal information that Canadians share over social media.

Every time you click on a link, or conduct a search, or increasingly, even talk about something that could be in any way remotely commercially valuable, some form of social media is tracking it, recording it and selling that data to other big companies that want to sell you something.

If your doctor sold your private medical information to pharmaceutical companies, you’d go off the head, and rightly so. But many of you are allowing social media giants to track every minute of your time online, recording when you look at a medicine, research an ailment, or even discuss a symptom within listening range of your mobile device. They then sell that information to pharmaceutical firms and other companies for a tidy profit.

But you’re an even bigger sucker than that. Like newspapers, or radio or television, social media can’t operate without providing content for you to look at. The content is what gives the advertising value. But unlike newspaper, radio and television companies, which spend millions employing reporters and editors and producers in this country to find, write and produce content for you, the social media companies don’t have to pay a cent. Because you are giving them your content for free.

Your baby photos, anniversary greetings, high fives, Twitter spats and gabfests over Facebook is all free content for the social media companies. They use that to sell advertising.

The Canadian government, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Government too, spend a fortune advertising on social media, much, much more than they spend on traditional advertising such as what’s in this newspaper that is seen by far, far more people than ever click on an ad online.

And newspapers like ours pay taxes on every ad or subscription we sell, and on any profits we manage to make.

The social media companies, meanwhile, are raking in millions from selling the personal information of Canadians, and the Canadian government isn’t taxing them. Canada says it’s waiting until it can reach an agreement with other countries around the world so everyone will tax the social media giants at approximately the same rate. Those countries have been negotiating with each other for years trying to figure out what that rate should be while the Elon Musks and Mark Zuckerburgs of the world laugh (in Musk’s case probably hysterically) all the way to the bank or the Bitcoin screen. Big Chinese companies, like TikTok, are also selling your info and scooping out ad revenue that used to go to local newspapers and radio stations.

And none of them are regulated. The social media giants have been used by China, Russia, and other enemy agents to sow division and hate in this country and the Canadian government hasn’t said boo. The more they wind people up on social media, the more money the social media companies make because that means more clicking and clacking by you on the keyboard and more time spent online.

What a sweet deal. Unregulated social media giants mine every click you make so it can sell your data to someone else, get you to work for them for free by supplying them with your content, take news from newspaper companies for free to attract eyeballs to their platforms, sell advertising on top of all of it… and don’t pay taxes in Canada.

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