Canada’s government demands Meta lift news ban on Facebook, Instagram as tens of thousands evacuated in Northwest Territories
Canada’s government has demanded that Meta Platforms lift its ban on news for Facebook and Instagram users in the country as tens of thousands are displaced by wildfires in the Northwest Territories.
Transport minister Pablo Rodriguez said he spoke with Meta representatives and demanded the ban be lifted to allow Canadians to access information about the wildfires.
He said he previously warned Meta about the “risks” posed by its ban on news links, adding: “What Meta is doing is totally unacceptable.”
Meta announced the ban earlier this year in response to a new Canadian law requiring internet companies to pay news outlets for sharing their content, something from which the tech firms have profited for years.
Meta has said it is not a media platform and that paying for content shared over its services would be unsustainable.
Google has also said it would remove news links to Canadian news sites from its search and other products.
Meta said it did not intend to change its stance on blocking news content, but said Canadians could access “content from official government agencies, emergency services and non-governmental organisations”.
It said it had activated its “Safety Check” feature allowing users to notify others whether they are safe.
Users told Associated Press they were using workarounds to help ensure others affected by the fires were seeing relevant information.
Some said they were taking screenshots of updates from local news outlets such as Cabin Radio, a digital radio station based in Northwest Territories capital Yellowknife, and posting them to their Facebook accounts to help get the information out.
Cabin Radio editor Ollie Williams said Meta’s news ban was “stupid and dangerous and clearly should not be in place”.
Canadian officials issued evacuation orders last week affecting an estimated 22,000 people in the Northwest Territories, including Yellowknife, after more than 230 wildfires were reported in the area.
Fires have burned more than 34 million acres in Canada so far this fire season, far more than the previous annual record of 18.3 million acres set in 1989.