Canadian Instagram and Facebook users will soon see their access to news content on these platforms restricted, in a move made by Meta to oppose the passing of the country’s digital media bill.
Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, has elected to block access to news content in Canada in response to the passing of the country’s Online News Act. This regulation would require social media platforms and search engines to pay news publishers for the content posted on their sites.
According to the Canadian federal government, the new bill is necessary “to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news market” and to allow struggling news organisations to “secure fair compensation” for news and links shared on the platforms.
The country’s ministers have welcomed the passing of the legislation, with Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez tweeting, “Exciting news! (No pun intended).”
Meta has called the law “fundamentally flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work” and stated news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada before the bill takes effect.
“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,” the company added in a public statement.
Google also opposes the legislation and has been trialling similar measures over the past months. The company has described the bill as “unworkable” in its current form and said it was seeking to work with the government to find a “path forward”.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has defended the news bill and accused the tech giants of employing “bullying tactics.”
“The fact that these internet giants would rather cut off Canadians’ access to local news than pay their fair share is a real problem,” Trudeau said this month, in response to the companies’ campaign against the law. “It’s not going to work.”
The Canadian law was modelled after a similar piece of legislation passed in Australia in 2021, known as the New Media Bargaining Code, which saw the country’s government clash with tech giants such as Meta and Google.
The backlash caused by the blocking of news content in Australia led Meta to backtrack less than a week later, after the government agreed to tweak the law to provide the company with more room to negotiate with news publishers.
Canada’s Online News Act also follows a series of moves made by the government to regulate the digital world. Earlier this year, Canada passed a law that requires streaming platforms such as Netflix to promote Canadian content to users in Canada.
The regulation has been celebrated by media industry groups.
“Real journalism, created by real journalists, continues to be demanded by Canadians and is vital to our democracy, but it costs real money,” said Paul Deegan, chief executive officer of News Media Canada.
After receiving Senate approval, the Online News Act is awaiting royal assent from the governor general, a step that is considered a formality. The bill is expected to come into effect in six months’ time.
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