Starting this week, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, Meta, have begun removing news links from both platforms in Canada. This move is a response to Canada’s Online News Act, which recently passed as a law requiring social media companies to pay publishers for displaying news links.
The intention behind this law is to support publishers who are experiencing a decline in advertising revenue.
According to Meta, this means that Canadian and international news outlets will no longer have their links visible to users in Canada. Additionally, people residing in Canada will not be able to view or share news content, including articles and audio-visual content posted by news outlets. These changes will be implemented gradually over the coming weeks.
Interestingly, Facebook’s announcement did not mention any possible impact on its newly launched rival to Twitter, Threads. Unfortunately, this new social media app has already experienced setbacks, with a 70% decline in daily active users since its peak in early July.
Meta reaffirmed its opposition to the Online News Act in its announcement, claiming that the legislation misrepresents the value provided to news outlets when they choose to use their platforms. The company argues that publications actually benefit more from its services rather than the other way around.
However, Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge, who handles the government’s interactions with Meta, criticized the company’s decision, labeling it as “irresponsible” in a statement released on Tuesday.
My statement on Meta blocking news on Facebook and Instagram ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/fO8KS9uMpn— Pascale St-Onge (@PascaleStOnge_) August 1, 2023
St-Onge expressed disappointment that Meta is blocking its users from accessing high-quality, local news rather than paying their fair share to news organizations. She emphasized that Google and Facebook collectively earn 80% of digital advertising revenue in Canada, while numerous newsrooms have been forced to close down.
This raises concerns about the potential impact on advertising revenue, which is a crucial source of income for publications. Without this revenue, their financial stability could be seriously compromised.
St-Onge further highlighted that other countries are closely observing the situation in Canada, contemplating similar actions. Notably, Canada’s Online News Act shares similarities with a law enacted in Australia in 2021.
In response to that particular law, both Google and Meta engaged in negotiations with Australian news companies. Reuters reports that agreements were eventually reached after certain amendments were made to the legislation.
However, in the case of Canada, neither party has shown any signs of budging or willingness to compromise thus far. St-Onge concluded her statement by affirming the government’s commitment to standing its ground against tech giants on behalf of Canadians. She questioned, “If the Government can’t stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?”