As promised, Meta is to pull news content from Facebook and Instagram in Canada, after the Online News Act becomes law
Meta Platforms has delivered on its warning, and confirmed it plans to end access to news on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada.
Meta took the decision after the Canadian parliament passed the Online News Act, or Bill C-18, which was introduced in early 2022 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 cleared the Canadian senate on Thursday, and has become law after receiving royal assent from the governor general. 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.”
On Thursday, Meta confirmed news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada.
The bill has been modelled on similar legislation passed in Australia back in 2021.
The Canadian government had said the legislation was needed because 450 news outlets in Canada had closed since 2008. It noted that more than 60 of those closures have occurred in the last two years alone.
It noted that digital platforms and social media are now the gateways where people find, read and share news. Because of this, the Canadian government said in 2022, advertising revenues have shifted away from local news and journalists to these gatekeepers, who profit from the sharing and distribution of Canadian news content.
In 2020, online advertising revenues in Canada reached $9.7 billion, with two companies taking in more than 80 percent of those revenues, the government said – adding it was time to address this market imbalance.
“Today, the Online News Act (Bill C-18) received Royal Assent,” said Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Chairperson and CEO Vicky Eatrides on Thursday. “The Act aims to ensure that news organisations operating in Canada can negotiate fair commercial agreements with the largest online platforms. The CRTC will set up the framework for mandatory bargaining between these parties.”
“The CRTC will soon share its plan for implementing the new Act,” Eatrides added. “We encourage all interested parties to participate in the public consultations.”
But Meta is not interested.
“Today, we are confirming that news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada prior to the Online News Act taking effect,” Meta was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement on Thursday.
Silicon UK has reached out to Meta, which has at the time of writing, failed to respond.
Facebook had warned about a withdrawal for weeks, saying news has no economic value to the company and that its users do not use the platform for news.
“A legislative framework that compels us to pay for links or content that we do not post, and which are not the reason the vast majority of people use our platforms, is neither sustainable nor workable,” a Meta spokesperson was quoted as telling Reuters.
Google meanwhile has argued Canada’s law is broader than those enacted in Australia and Europe, a spokesperson for Google added on Thursday that the bill remains “unworkable”.
The company said it was urgently seeking to work with the Canadian government “on a path forward.”
Google has reportedly proposed that the bill be revised to make the displaying of news content, rather than links, as basis for payment, and to specify that only businesses that produce news and adhere to journalistic standards are eligible.
Meta and Google have faced similar publisher demands in other jurisdictions. Australia was the first country in the world to actually introduce publisher compensation laws.
Both Alphabet and Meta had protested to Australia officials when that country sought to pass the ground breaking law back in 2020 and 2021.
The Australian government however took no notice of the protests from Meta and Alphabet, and pressed ahead with the legislation.
Facebook responded and then pulled all local and international news on its platforms (including Instagram) in Australia, before restoring it after the Australian government agreed to change parts of its ‘media bargaining law’.
It remains to be seen whether the Canadian will actually engage with these tech firms over possible concessions, but it remains to be seen.
Indeed, Canada’s federal government has so far pushed back against suggestions to make changes.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Meta and Google were using “bullying tactics” as they campaign against the legislation.
Google and Facebook had also threatened to curtail their services in Australia when a similar rules were passed into law. Both eventually struck deals with Australian media companies after amendments to the legislation were offered.
Earlier this month Meta Platforms issued a stark warning to officials in its home state of California, over a proposed new law that mirrors one passed in Australia in 2021.
The Californian state government is considering 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.
The fee would be determined via an arbitration process – based on the social media platform’s monthly ad revenue.