Canada news could be blocked on Facebook, Instagram
Canadians will no longer be able to access news on Facebook or Instagram if the federal government’s proposed Online News Act passes in its current form, the parent company behind the two popular social media platforms has said.
Meta spokeswoman Lisa Laventure shared the decision in an email Saturday.
“A legal framework that forces us to pay for links or content that we do not publish, and that are not the reason the vast majority of people use our platforms, is neither sustainable nor workable,” he wrote.
Tech giants like Meta and Google have long fought the proposed law, known as Bill C-18, which would require digital giants like Meta and Google to negotiate deals that would compensate Canadian media companies to link or otherwise repurpose their content online.
Major Canadian media companies and the federal Liberal government have backed the bill, saying it would level the playing field for news outlets that compete with tech companies for advertising dollars.
“Once again, it’s disappointing to see Facebook resort to threats instead of working in good faith with the Canadian government,” Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement.
“This tactic didn’t work in Australia and it won’t work here.”
His remarks were in reference to Facebook’s move to block access to news in Australia after a similar law is considered in 2021. The tech company quickly backed down after the Australian government made changes to the arbitration mechanism in the bill.
But the company has since threatened to block news access in other countries, such as the United States, where Congress last year considered similar legislation known as the Journalism Competition and Protection Act.
Facebook has been investing in the potential to block access to news in Canada for months as Bill C-18 made its way through Parliament.
Mark Dinsdale, Meta Canada’s head of media partnerships, raised the idea in an October 2022 statement in which he argued that the proposed legislation implied his company was “unfairly benefiting from its relationships with publishers, when in fact the opposite is true.”
He argued that posts with links to news articles account for less than what people see in their Facebook feeds, and said Canadians are telling his company they want to see less news and political content on its platforms.
“We have repeatedly shared with the government that news content is not a draw for our users and is not a significant source of revenue for our company,” he said.
But Rodriguez and the publishers argue that tech companies are taking ad revenue away from media companies.
A 2018 report by the Canadian Media Concentration Project found that Google captured half of the country’s Internet advertising market that year, with Facebook trailing at 27.3 percent and Bell, Torstar, Twitter- and Postmedia – below 2 percent each.
That equates to $3.8 billion in ad revenue for Google, up from $2.8 billion in 2016.
Facebook earned $2.1 billion in advertising in 2018, while Bell earned $146 million, Torstar earned $120 million, Twitter earned $117.5 million, and Postmedia earned $116.4 million. million dollars.
However, Facebook insists it’s helping publishers, not hurting them.
The company’s stream delivered more than 1.9 billion clicks to publishers in the 12 months to April 2022, worth $230 million, Dinsdale said.
This content was voluntarily posted on Facebook by publishers, he added.
“We are being asked to agree to a system that allows publishers to charge us for as much content as they want to deliver without clear price limits,” he wrote.
“No business can operate this way.”
But Rodriguez said the Canadians “will not be intimidated” by Meta’s tactics.
“All Facebook has done up to this point is show up at the commission, delay, obstruct, refuse to answer questions and threaten Canadians,” he said.
“We’ve always said we’re open to working with Facebook, and we still are.”
Google recently began a five-week test that limited access to news for some Canadian users. It will end on March 16.
At a House of Commons heritage committee hearing on the bill on Friday, Google Canada chief Sabrina Geremia insisted the proposed legislation would “fundamentally change” the framework her company uses to post links to free news.
“The bill is a moving target, key questions remain unanswered,” he said. “We don’t know if we’ll be able to continue linking to news as we do today, so we’re testing possible changes to how we currently freely link to news within that framework.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 11, 2023.
Meta funds a limited number of scholarships that support emerging journalists at The Canadian Press.
Torstar has a stake in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with Globe and Mail subsidiaries and Montreal’s La Presse.
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