Meta Begins News Closure In Canada Over Publisher Payment Law

Meta Platforms and the Canadian government remain at loggerheads over the issue of payments to news publishers.

Both Meta and Google had in June confirmed they would end access to news on their respective platforms for users in Canada, in response to Canadian legislation requiring tech giants to pay news publishers.

Now Meta confirmed on Tuesday that it has begun the process to end access to news on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada.

News withdrawal

It came after Meta’s communications director, Andy Stone, confirmed that the changes will roll out in the coming weeks.

“Today we’ve begun the process of ending news availability in Canada. Changes will roll out over a few weeks,” tweeted Stone.

Meanwhile the Guardian newspaper reported that Canada’s heritage minister, Pascale St-Onge, who is in charge of the government’s dealings with Meta, has called the move irresponsible.

“[Meta] would rather block their users from accessing good quality and local news instead of paying their fair share to news organisations,” St-Onge said in a statement on Tuesday. “We’re going to keep standing our ground. After all, if the government can’t stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?”

Meta however had warned in June it would carry out the move.

In response, last month the Canadian government said it would halt advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

Online News Act

Meta and Google have taken the decision after the Canadian parliament passed the Online News Act, or Bill C-18 to “establish a new legislative and regulatory framework to ensure fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace…by ensuring that news media and journalists receive fair compensation for their work.”

The Online News Act became law in June after receiving royal assent from the governor general but has yet to take affect. The bill essentially lays out rules requiring platforms such as Meta and Google to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers for their content.

Meta and Google have opposed C-18 right from the start, and Meta called the law “fundamentally flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work.”

Google meanwhile said Canada’s Online News Act “remains unworkable” and was much broader than similar legislation passed in Australia back in 2021.

It should be remembered that the Australian government agreed to change parts of its ‘media bargaining law’ after Facebook pulled all local and international news on its platforms (including Instagram) in Australia.

Google meanwhile has confirmed it will remove links to Canadian news from its Search, News and Discover products in Canada, when the law takes effect in about five months time.

Google has argued that the new law is broader than those enacted in Australia and Europe, as it puts a price on news story links displayed in search results and can apply to outlets that do not produce news.

Even more damaging for local news publishers is that Google said the Online News Act made it “untenable for us to continue offering our Google News Showcase product in Canada.” This scheme delivers much needed revenues to local publishers.

The tech showdown with Canada is due to the high stake nature of these types of laws, as certain governments attempt to make tech firms pay for news.

Meta for example has already warned officials in its home state of California, over its proposed legislation known as Assembly Bill 886, or the California Journalism Preservation Act, which would require social media platforms to pay a monthly “journalism usage fee” for work appears on their services.

That bill would determine a fee via an arbitration process – based on the social media platform’s monthly ad revenue.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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