Facebook, Instagram to end news access for users in Canada

Parent company Meta has found that this is the way out of the new law that mandates sharing revenues with publishers.
Ameya Paleja
Meta to remove news content for users in Canada
Meta to remove news content for users in Canada

Stockcam/iStock 

Users in Canada will no longer have access to news content over Facebook and Instagram platforms, parent company Meta said on June 22. Along with Google, the company has been testing limited news access to users over fears of an upcoming law, the BBC reported.

The move from the tech giants is a deja-vu from 2021 when users in Australia were blocked from viewing or sharing news content on Facebook. Back then, Australia brought in a new law that required tech companies to share their revenues with publishers of news content.

Facebook then relented after the law was tweaked to allow the platform more time to negotiate terms with publishers.

On Thursday, the Canadian Senate passed the Online News Act which mandates platforms like Meta and Google to negotiate commercial deals and share revenues with news organizations that create the content. Lawmakers in Canada have ruled out further tweaking of the law and Meta has reacted with the removal of content altogether.

What do tech giants say?

Meta has reacted to the law by calling it "fundamentally flawed" and that it "ignores the realities of how our platforms work". Meta's argument is that the legislation compels it to pay for links to content that it does not post nor is it the reason why users access the platform.

A Google executive had told the Senate committee in May that it would consider banning new links on the platform if the law came into effect and in its current form was "unworkable". Instead, it was providing huge value to the publishers by sending traffic to their site and "was doing everything it can to avoid an outcome no one wants."

Google also said that it had provided thoughtful suggestions that would have improved the bill and helped it make significant investments in the Canadian news ecosystem but its concerns remained unaddressed.

Facebook, Instagram to end news access for users in Canada
Users in Canada wont get any breaking news on Meta platforms

The Canadian government has maintained that the new law "enhances fairness in the digital news market" and provides "fair compensation" to news organizations that have lost advertising revenues after the arrival of tech giants.

A model for the rest of the world

The legislation will come into force once it receives royal assent from the Governor General which is a mere formality. With the Canadian government unlikely to make tweaks to the law, it is likely that the platforms will either have to comply or face their customer's ire for removing access to content.

Experts are of the view that the implementation of the law in the coming days will make it a model for passing similar laws in larger markets such as Brazil, the UK, and the US. The state of California is already considering a similar proposal.

Back in 2021, when the law was passed, Facebook also brought down pages of hospitals and emergency services as it blacked news content. While it was attributed to a technical glitch, whistleblowers claimed that the company was using it as a negotiating tactic, The Washington Post reported. Meta has promised to be careful with its content removal in Canada on this occasion.

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