On August 1, 2023, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, made good on its threat to block news content for users in Canada on both Facebook and Instagram. This decision comes in response to the passing of the Online News Act (Bill C-18) by Canada’s Parliament in June 2023.
The Act aims to ensure fair revenue sharing between digital platforms like Meta and Google and news outlets, as local newsrooms have been adversely affected by the disruption of the traditional news distribution model caused by social media giants. The Online News Act follows similar laws proposed in Australia and California, aiming to create a more balanced relationship between tech companies and news publishers. The legislation aims to address the issue of digital platforms profiting from news content without adequately compensating the news outlets that produce it.
By blocking news content in Canada, Meta is essentially opposing the Act instead of engaging with Canadian lawmakers on the matter. In response to the Act, Meta has publicly stated that it believes the legislation is based on an incorrect premise, claiming that the company benefits less from news content shared on its platforms than news outlets benefit from the exposure. Nevertheless, instead of pursuing a dialogue with the Canadian government, Meta has chosen to comply with the law by blocking access to news altogether for Canadian users. Canadian journalists and news outlets have already started reporting on the consequences of Meta’s decision.
Local newsrooms, already vulnerable due to the power and influence of social media platforms, now face the harsh reality of having zero visibility on Facebook and Instagram. Christopher Curtis, co-founder of the newsletter called The Rover, lamented the impact of this decision on journalists’ livelihoods, saying, “This fight with Meta is making that harder and harder.” Additionally, accounts from Cult MTL and indigenous writer Anna Mary McKenzie have also expressed their frustration at having their content blocked. This move by Meta has intensified concerns about media diversity and the ability of independent news outlets to reach their audiences effectively.
While Meta’s actions are in response to perceived issues with the Online News Act, the decision to block news content in Canada has implications for media freedom, diversity, and the relationship between tech giants and news organizations. As the situation unfolds, stakeholders will need to find a balance that respects the interests of both news publishers and digital platforms to ensure a sustainable and fair media landscape in Canada.
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