Meta has confirmed it has begun the process of ending news availability in Canada on Facebook and Instagram, ahead of the implementation of the Online News Act.
In an updated blog post, the digital giant says as of today, it’s enacting changes that will impact everyone who accesses those platforms in Canada in the next few weeks.
For Canadian news outlets that means news links and content will no longer be viewable in Canada. Meta says it’s identifying news outlets based on legislative definitions and guidance from the Online News Act.
News publishers and broadcasters outside of Canada will continue to be able to post news links and content, however, that content will not be viewable by people in Canada. Facebook and Instagram users in Canada will also no longer be able to view or share news content, including news articles and audio-visual content posted by news outlets.
Meta had been testing a product solution to end news availability in Canada since earlier this year – a vital source of referral traffic for many news outlets.
Socially-driven online news outlets like Narcity Media had already been feeling the impact of Meta’s news-blocking technology, with Editor-in-Chief Alison Millington writing last month that the digital publisher was still hopeful “common ground” could be found with government “in order to not only allow publishers like us — who constantly ride waves of change — to continue doing what we do, but also to champion what local news means to our democratic society.”
Google, which has also threatened to eliminate links from Canadian broadcasters and publishers in search engine results, in response to Bill C-18, said last month it’s continuing to work through some of the regulatory uncertainty in the Act, including concerns about uncapped financial liability. As reported by The Canadian Press, Google has thus far withheld the rollout of its new AI chatbot, Bard, in Canada, putting us in the company of Russia, North Korea, China, Belarus, Afghanistan and Syria.
Canada standing up to Facebook for right reasons: St.-Onge
Newly-minted Canadian Heritage Min. Pascale St-Onge said in a statement that Canada is standing up to Facebook for “the right reasons” with Google and Facebook now accounting for 80% of all digital advertising revenue in Canada.
“The world is watching Canada,” asserted St-Onge. “Other countries are looking at introducing similar legislation to tackle the same challenges…Facebook is trying to send a message, not only to Canada, but to other countries like New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.”
“We’re going to keep standing our ground. After all, if the government can’t stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?”
The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) said Meta’s decision to end news availability in Canada shows the company’s tangible disregard for democracy and its willingness to allow misinformation to thrive.
“It is deeply troubling that Meta will deliberately hinder news availability in our country instead of offering workable solutions to help make the new legislation work,” said CAB President Kevin Desjardins, in a statement. “The bottom line is that Meta would rather continue to pocket the billions in revenues it takes out of the Canadian economy while fundamentally eroding Canadians’ news access and raising the profile of misinformation on its platforms. This is a lose-lose proposition for all Canadians.”
CBC/Radio-Canada said the move means that Canadians who have come to rely on Facebook and Instagram to find and access news and information are now left with only unverified sources in their feeds. The public broadcaster said the problem is particularly acute in Canada’s North, for Francophones in minority language communities, and for people in rural communities who depend more on Facebook for news.
“Meta’s move to deny Canadians access to domestic sources of trusted news and verified information — especially at a time when Canadians are depending on it to stay safe from the harmful effects of unprecedented weather events across much of the country — is irresponsible and an abuse of their market power,” said a statement from the public broadcaster. “CBC/Radio-Canada joins all Canadian media organizations who are calling on Meta to act responsibly by restoring Canadians’ access to news — all news, from all outlets, both public and private — and by negotiating with Canadian media organizations to compensate them for their news content.”
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