Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has kept its vow to block journalistic content in Canada on its platforms in reaction to a Bill C-18 new law requiring tech firms to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their work online.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has stated that it intends to do the same, but it does not appear to have done so yet. In a June blog post, the business stated that when the law goes into force in December, it will begin deleting news links in the country.
In response to the law, Meta has threatened to restrict links to Canadian news sites for nearly a year. According to the social media firm, the Online News Act “is based on the incorrect premise that Meta unfairly benefits from news content shared on our platforms, when the opposite is true.”
Because of the changes, Canadians are no longer allowed to see or share news on Facebook or Instagram, including news articles, videos, and audio produced by outlets both inside and outside of Canada. Links from Canadian media outlets are still viewable in other countries.
Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge labelled Meta’s decision “irresponsible” on Elon Musk’s social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
“They would rather prevent their users from accessing good quality and local news than pay their fair share to news organisations,” she stated in an Aug. 1 statement.
In reaction to Meta’s earlier decision to ban access to news information on their social platforms as part of a temporary test, Canada’s government said last month that it will discontinue advertising on Facebook and Instagram.
Meta has previously taken similar actions. It briefly removed news from its platform in Australia in 2021 after the country approved legislation requiring digital companies to pay publishers for using their news content. It later signed agreements with Australian publishers.
Meta’s Reaction to Justin Trudeau’s Online News Act – Bill C-18
We have initiated the process of discontinuing news availability in Canada in order to comply with the Online News Act. These changes go into effect today and will affect everyone who uses Facebook and Instagram in Canada over the coming two weeks.
For Canadian news organisations, this means:
People in Canada will no longer be able to read news links and content posted by Canadian news publishers and broadcasters. We are identifying news outlets based on legal definitions and the Online News Act’s advice.
For multinational news organisations, this means:
News publishers and broadcasters outside of Canada will be able to continue posting news links and material; but, this content will not be seen by Canadians.
This means the following for our Canadian community:
People in Canada will no longer be able to see or share news content, including news stories and audio-visual content posted by news organisations, on Facebook and Instagram.
For our global community, this means:
Our services remain unchanged for those who use our technology outside of Canada.
Compliance with the Online News Act as a Business Decision
We expressed our worry about a year ago that the Online News Act will require us to reconsider whether we should continue to allow the sharing of news information on our platforms.
We have been open and honest with the Canadian government, stating that the legislation misrepresents the value that news organisations receive when they choose to utilise our platforms.
The legislation is premised on the false assumption that Meta unfairly benefits from news articles posted on our platforms, when in fact the opposite is true.
News organisations freely post content on Facebook and Instagram in order to broaden their readership and boost their financial line. We know, on the other hand, that people who use our platforms do not come to us for news.
While the process of developing regulations under the Online News Act is proceeding, it is sadly not equipped to make adjustments to the essential characteristics of the legislation that have always been ineffective.
The only way we can reasonably comply with this legislation is to stop providing news to Canadians. We are announcing these changes, which will take effect immediately, in order to provide clarity to the millions of Canadians and businesses who use our services.
Canadians will always be able to use modern technology to stay in touch with friends, relatives, and groups, participate in their local communities, and learn new things.
Collaboration on Online News Access
People in Canada can continue to get news online by going straight to the websites of news providers, installing mobile news applications, and subscribing to their chosen publishers. Meta worked with Nellie Brière, a digital literacy expert in Québec, to provide people with information on how to continue accessing local news and information online. You can find the guide here.
We are proud of our contribution to a thriving and diversified news ecosystem. Our free tools and services enabled local publishers to engage with their communities and established media outlets to continue to develop their audiences – free marketing that generated more than CDN $230 million in projected value in a year.
We hope that in the future, the Canadian government will recognise the value we already give to the news sector and explore a policy response that supports the ideals of a free and open internet, champions diversity and innovation, and reflects the interests of the entire Canadian media landscape.
Updated on June 22nd, 2023
We are confirming today that all users in Canada will no longer be able to access news on Facebook and Instagram prior to the implementation of the Online News Act (Bill C-18).
We have previously stated that, in order to comply with Bill C-18, which was enacted today in Parliament, content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to Canadians who use our services.
We indicated earlier this month that we were undertaking product testing to assist us in developing an effective product solution to end news availability as a result of C-18. These studies are continuing and currently affect a tiny fraction of Canadian customers.
Meta’s products and services in Canada will be unaffected by the modifications to news content. We want to ensure that the millions of Canadians who use our platforms can always connect with friends and family, build their companies, and support their local communities.
We will continue to combat disinformation and have established the largest global fact-checking network of any platform by collaborating with more than 90 independent fact-checking organisations worldwide that examine and grade viral misinformation in more than 60 languages. Fact-checking will continue for content that is still available in Canada.
Initially released on June 1st, 2023
As previously stated, if Bill C-18, the Online News Act, becomes law, content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will be unavailable to Canadians using Facebook and Instagram.
As we prepare to comply with the regulations, we announce today that we will begin testing on both platforms that will prevent some users and publishers in Canada from reading or sharing certain news items.
Randomised tests will assist us in developing an effective product solution to end news availability in Canada, as stated under Bill C-18. During the testing period, which will last several weeks, a small fraction of Canadians who have enlisted in the programme will be contacted if they seek to distribute news content.
Product testing will have an impact on news outlets both inside and outside of Canada. Based on the present language of Bill C-18, Meta is identifying news outlets on our platforms. As written, the legislation includes news outlets that principally report on, investigate, or explain current issues or occurrences of public interest.
News organisations will still have access to their accounts and Pages and will be able to post news links and information; however, some content will be unavailable in Canada.
The Meta Business Suite and advertising tools will remain available to outlets. Those who have enrolled in testing will have recourse to a review process if they believe they do not fit within the legislation’s intended scope.
Product testing is an essential element in Meta’s methodical approach to product development. They are an important component of our effort to comply with the Online News Act ethically and transparently.
The Online News Act, as we have often stated, is fundamentally misguided legislation that ignores the facts of how our platforms work, the preferences of those who use them, and the value we provide news publishers.
As the Minister of Canadian Heritage has stated, how we choose to comply with the legislation is a business decision that we must make, and we have done so. While these product tests are only temporary, we aim to permanently discontinue the distribution of news material in Canada following the adoption of Bill C-18.