This is a disturbing decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, as explained by my former colleague (and fellow Canadian) Jeff Roberts at Fortune. It follows some equally troubling decisions in Europe that have ordered Google to delete results worldwide because of the so-called “right to be forgotten.”

In a 7-2 decision, the court agreed a British Columbia judge had the power to issue an injunction forcing Google to scrub search results about pirated products not just in Canada, but everywhere else in the world too.Those siding with Google, including civil liberties groups, had warned that allowing the injunction would harm free speech, setting a precedent to let any judge anywhere order a global ban on what appears on search engines. The Canadian Supreme Court, however, downplayed this objection and called Google’s fears “theoretical.”

Source: Google Loses Supreme Court of Canada Case Over Search Results

Update: Daphne Keller published a smart piece on this issue at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society (which I found via Eugene Volokh). Here’s some of what she said:

Canada’s endorsement of cross-border content removal orders is deeply troubling. It speeds the day when we will see the same kinds of orders from countries with problematic human rights records and oppressive speech laws. And it increases any individual speaker’s vulnerability to laws and state actors elsewhere in the world. Content hosting and distribution are increasingly centralized in the hands of a few multinational companies – Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft with their web hosting services, etc. Those companies have local presence and vulnerability to formal jurisdiction and real world threats of arrest or asset seizure in scores of countries.

Source: Ominous: Canadian Court Orders Google to Remove Search Results Globally

It should be noted that Keller is associate general counsel at Google, and as such was involved in this particular case at the Court of Appeals stage. But her warning is still worth listening to. Another smart post on the topic comes from my friend Michael Geist, a Canadian law professor.

What happens if a Chinese court orders it to remove Taiwanese sites from the index? Or if an Iranian court orders it to remove gay and lesbian sites from the index? Since local content laws differ from country to country, there is a great likelihood of conflicts. That leaves two possible problematic outcomes: local courts deciding what others can access online or companies such as Google selectively deciding which rules they wish to follow.

Source: Global Internet Takedown Orders Come to Canada: Supreme Court Upholds International Removal of Google Search Results

The Age of Distributed Truth

by Mathew on June 29, 2017

Smart post from Eugene Wei about how information gets distributed now, and things that were commonly known in specific circles (like a certain VC’s reputation for sexual harassment) become more widely known.

We live in the age of distributed truth, and it’s an environment in which fake news can spread like mold when in viral form. But the same applies to the truth, and if there’s one lesson on how to do your part in an age of distributed truth, it’s to speak the truth and to support those who do. It may be exhausting work—is it really necessary to point out the emperor is buck naked?—but it’s the best we can do for now.

Source: The age of distributed truth — Remains of the Day

Copy editors at the New York Times have written an open letter to executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joe Kahn, protesting the downsizing of editing functions at the paper. The Times is planning to get rid of its central copy desk, and aims to reduce the number of editors by about 50%.

“Dear Dean and Joe,” the letter begins. “We have begun the humiliating process of justifying our continued presence at The New York Times. We take some solace in the fact that we have been assured repeatedly that copy editors are highly respected here. If that is true, we have a simple request. Cutting us down to 50 to 55 editors from more than 100, and expecting the same level of quality in the report, is dumbfoundingly unrealistic. Work with us on a new number.”

Source: New York Times copy desk to top editors: ‘You have turned your backs on us’ – Poynter

I have a huge amount of respect for copy editors, and editors of all types — the good ones are invaluable, and have saved me from more stupid errors than I care to enumerate. But the harsh fact is that the kind of structure newspapers used to have, in which four or five different editors touched every story, simply doesn’t make any sense any more.

When I worked at Fortune, one editor was responsible for assigning, copy editing and publishing. Obviously we still made mistakes, but not that much more than any other publication I don’t think. As touching and heartfelt as the New York Times editor’s letter is, there is no way to turn back the hands of time and make the newspaper business what it used to be.

This seems like an interesting — and also ambitious — project aimed at developing a kind of crowdsourced journalism infrastructure based on the crypto-currency Ethereum. Instead of a traditional advertising-based model, the group is proposing to monetize the project (known as Civil) using Ethereum “tokens” or virtual currency that could be exchanged in a variety of ways.

We propose a solution called Civil, an Ethereum-based decentralized platform that can be used to create “newsrooms” and “stations”?—?blockchain-based marketplaces where citizens and journalists form communities around a shared purpose and set of standards, financially support factual reporting and investigative work, and substantially limit misinformation through effective collaborative-editing methods. The net result is a self-sustaining global marketplace for journalism that is free from ads, fake news, a

Source: Civil: Self-Sustaining Journalism — Medium


Facebook has reportedly been working on building support for paywalls and subscription models into its mobile-first Instant Articles platform. And as with so much of what the social network offers to publishers, it will be a giant double-edged sword.

The company is hoping to roll out support for third-party subscriptions by the end of this year, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal.

The proposed feature is still in the development stages, so it’s unclear whether Facebook is planning to take a percentage of the revenue from subscriptions that are activated through Instant Articles (as Apple does through Apple News) or allow publishers to keep all the money.

As far as the structure of the feature goes, Facebook reportedly prefers a metered approach where users would get a certain number of articles free every month before being asked to pay. This is the kind of paywall the New York Times offers.

Imposing such a feature could rankle some other publishers who have harder paywalls, however, such as the Journal itself, or the Financial Times.

There’s no question that support for subscriptions, in whatever way Facebook chooses to implement it, could be hugely beneficial to many media companies. As the social network and Google have increased their dominance in the advertising industry, many publishers have turned to subscriptions as a way of boosting their declining revenues.

According to a recent estimate by industry analyst Brian Wieser, the two digital giants now control more than 75% of the digital advertising business, and last year they accounted for almost 100% of the growth in that industry in the U.S.

Subscriptions have also become more appealing because outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post have been having so much success with them, thanks to what appears to be a backlash against President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media.

The risk in Facebook’s new feature, however, is the same as it is with almost every other Facebook offering: Namely, that it will pull media companies even further into the giant social network’s orbit, and thereby give it even more control over their fate.

Instant Articles itself, which formats news articles so they load faster on mobile devices, is exactly this kind of Faustian bargain. It solves a huge problem for many media companies, many of which can’t afford to come up with their own mobile solution, and it offers the potential of reaching Facebook’s massive 1.8-billion user base.

At the same time, however, it gives Facebook an enormous amount of control over the content that publishers produce and how they make money from it. And over the long term, it risks turning media companies into commodity suppliers of news to the social network.

Surveys show that large numbers of people who get their news from Facebook—including the millennial audiences that many media companies are so concerned about reaching—can’t remember the original source of the news they read on the site. The only source that matters is Facebook. What effect does that have on a media company’s brand?

The social network also has a history of changing its mind when it comes to features it offers to publishers. A number of years ago, many bet their future on so-called “social reader apps,” which lived on Facebook and for a time brought in millions of new readers.

That worked until Facebook decided to de-emphasize those apps in the news-feed algorithm, however, and all of a sudden huge numbers of users never saw those apps or the articles within them.

Reaching the billions of users Facebook has is a huge lure for publishers, and understandably so. But building your business—or at least a significant part of it—on someone else’s land can have very real consequences. Facebook may genuinely want to help media companies. But it also wants to help itself. How long until the latter clashes with the former?

Also on: