Meta’s Facebook and Instagram are shutting down news availability in Canada due to the Online News Act

Aug 2, 2023, 10:16 AM UTC
3 mins read
Meta's Facebook and Instagram are shutting down news availability in Canada due to the Online News Act
(Image credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Meta‘s Facebook and Instagram have taken a bold step in response to Canada’s Online News Act, announcing that they will be blocking news outlets in Canada from their platforms. The move, which started on August 1, is set to be fully implemented over the next few weeks, cutting off access to news content for all Canadian users.

The Online News Act passed in June 2023, aims to ensure fair revenue sharing between digital platforms and news outlets and enables news organizations to collectively bargain with big tech firms. However, rather than complying with the legislation, Meta has chosen to shut down news availability in Canada altogether.

In an official blog post, Meta asserted that the legislation misrepresents the value news outlets receive when using their platforms. They argue that news organizations voluntarily share content on Facebook and Instagram to reach wider audiences and improve their financial standing. They further assert that users do not rely on their platforms for news consumption.

Under these new changes, Canadian news publishers and broadcasters will have their content blocked, making it inaccessible to people in Canada. Meanwhile, news publishers and broadcasters from other countries will still be allowed to post content that will not be viewable by Canadian users.

To determine which accounts to block, Meta is relying on legislative definitions and guidance from the Online News Act. Google has also expressed plans to block Canadian news sources from its Search, News, and Discover services due to the same law.

The decision by Meta has drawn criticism, particularly from CBC/Radio-Canada, which condemned the move as irresponsible and an abuse of market power. They argue that access to trusted news and verified information is crucial, especially during times of natural disasters when accurate information is essential for public safety. CBC/Radio-Canada, along with other Canadian media organizations, is urging Meta to restore access to news content and to negotiate compensation for the use of their content.

This is not the first time Meta has faced such a situation. In 2021, a similar incident occurred in Australia when Meta blocked news outlets in response to Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code. The code required tech companies to pay news publishers for their content. The issue was eventually resolved when the Australian government made changes to the law, resulting in Google and Meta striking deals with local news outlets.

The Canadian government’s intention with the Online News Act is to level the playing field and ensure that news outlets are adequately compensated for their content on digital platforms. However, Meta’s decision to block news access raises questions about the company’s influence and control over the flow of information.

As this situation unfolds, it remains to be seen whether the Canadian government will make any adjustments to the legislation or if Meta will reconsider its stance and engage in negotiations with Canadian media organizations. In the meantime, Canadian users are left without access to news content on Meta’s platforms, potentially impacting their ability to stay informed and up-to-date with current events.

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