In a bold move, Meta Platforms Inc, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced plans to restrict access to news content on its platforms in Canada. The decision comes as a response to the impending enactment of the Online News Act, legislation approved by the Canadian Senate that would require tech giants to pay news publishers for their content.
“Today, we are confirming that news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada before the Online News Act taking effect,” stated Meta in an official statement. The company has consistently argued that news holds no economic value and that their users do not primarily utilize the platforms for consuming news.
The Online News Act seeks to regulate tech companies such as Meta and Google, compelling them to negotiate commercial agreements and provide compensation to news publishers for the use of their content. This legislation follows in the footsteps of Australia’s landmark law passed in 2021, which aimed to prevent tech giants from dominating the online advertising market and sidelining traditional news businesses.
Unsurprisingly, the proposed legislation has faced opposition from the U.S. technology giants, who argue that the measures are unsustainable for their business models. Google, in particular, has highlighted that Canada’s law extends beyond those enacted in Australia and Europe, as it mandates payment for news story links displayed in search results, potentially encompassing outlets that do not produce news. Google has suggested revising the bill to base payment on the display of news content, rather than links, and restrict eligibility to businesses that adhere to journalistic standards.
In response to Meta’s announcement, a Google spokesperson described the bill as “unworkable” and expressed the company’s urgency to collaborate with the government to find a way forward. However, the Canadian federal government has firmly resisted calls for revisions, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau characterizing the tech companies’ opposition as “bullying tactics.”
While Meta’s decision to restrict news access has drawn criticism from some quarters, industry groups such as the News Media Alliance have applauded Canada’s Parliament for standing up to “Big Tech.” Danielle Coffey, president of the News Media Alliance, praised the legislation’s approval and expressed hope that the United States would follow suit in recognizing the need for fair compensation for news content.
The new law, Bill C-18, is part of a wider effort by the Canadian government to regulate the digital sphere and address the influence of tech giants. Similar proposals are being considered in other countries as well, as governments aim to ensure the sustainability of struggling news industries by holding social media companies accountable for compensating media organizations for their content.
Meta’s decision to block news content in Canada echoes its previous actions in Australia, where the company initially restricted users from accessing news feeds on Facebook but eventually reversed its decision after the government made amendments to the legislation.
As the implementation of the Online News Act in Canada looms, Meta’s move is likely to spark further debates on the balance of power between tech giants and the news industry, and the role of legislation in safeguarding fair compensation for news publishers in the digital age.