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Meta to Block News in Canada with Passage of Online News Act

When the Online News Act goes into effect in approximately six months

Last Thursday, Meta confirmed that it will block news on Facebook and Instagram in Canada once the Online News Act goes into effect. After passing the House and Senate in Canada, the Online News Act – Bill C-18 – the bill received royal assent. The next step is for the Department of Canadian Heritage to draft regulations that would dictate how the act would be applied, reports the CBC. The time estimate for the legislation to go into effect is about six months.

The Online News Act, which was introduced in April 2022, would require digital platforms like Meta and Google to pay fair compensation to eligible news outlets for news shared on their platforms. It would also allow for collective bargaining with digital platforms and encourage “voluntary commercial agreements” between the parties. The goal of the legislation is to support sustainable, independent news organizations and maintain an independent press. Earlier this month, Meta threatened to pull news off its platforms in Canada if the bill passed and has been testing its ability to do so, impacting “a small percentage of users.”

After the testing was announced, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the government would not be bullied.

“The fact that these internet giants would rather cut off Canadians’ access to local news than pay their fair share is a real problem, and now they’re resorting to bullying tactics to try and get their way. It’s not going to work,” Prime Minister Trudeau said in a news conference. “We will continue to make sure that these incredibly profitable corporations contribute to strengthening our democracy, not weakening it.”

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Now that the Online News Act is moving forward, Meta will begin blocking news for Canadian users of its platforms over the next few months, so the change won’t be immediate.

“We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18, passed today in Parliament, content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada,” Meta said in a June 22, 2023 statement. “The changes affecting news content will not otherwise impact Meta’s products and services in Canada.” 

Andy Stone, a member of Meta’s communications team, shared the following on Twitter Friday:

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez also issued a statement last week.

“A free and independent press is fundamental to our democracy. It levels the playing field by putting the power of big tech in check and ensuring that even our smallest news business can benefit through this regime and receive fair compensation for their work,” the Honorable Pablo Rodriguez.

He also shared this statement on Twitter:

Google shares concerns about Online News Act

Since February, Google has been testing its own tool to block news in Canada, reports The Verge. The tech giant is working with the Canadian government to find a way forward together while avoiding “an outcome no one wants.”

“Every step of the way, we’ve proposed thoughtful and pragmatic solutions that would have improved the bill and cleared the path for us to increase our already significant investments in the Canadian news ecosystem,” Google said. “So far, none of our concerns have been addressed. Bill C-18 is about to become law and remains unworkable.”

Insider Take

There is precedent for Meta’s behavior. They held a similar position in Australia, blocking news on Facebook for a short period of time, until Meta and the Australian government reached an agreement. Meta has also made similar threats about the possible passage of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act in the US and the California Journalism Protection Act. Companies like Meta and Google are balking at having to pay for the use of news from eligible news outlets.

They believe that everyone benefits from the sharing of news – the platforms, Facebook and Instagram users, and the publishers who get more eyes on their stories – and they shouldn’t have to pay for it. We don’t think Meta’s threats are empty ones, but it does seem that some sort of compromise would be beneficial, especially since 31% of US adults get news from Facebook, according to Pew Research.

Copyright © 2023 Authority Media Network, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited.

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