Meta Threatens to Remove News Content in Canada

KEY TAKEAWAYS
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is in conflict with the Canadian government over the proposed Online News Act (Bill C-18), which would require online platforms to pay news publishers for content shared on their platforms.
Meta has threatened to remove news links on its platforms in Canada in response to the legislation. They previously blocked Australians from sharing news stories on Facebook in 2021 due to similar legislation, which caused backlash and limited access to emergency services pages.
Meta argues that the Online News Act is based on a flawed premise, stating that news sites benefit from Facebook and Instagram rather than the other way around. They claim that news content has little economic value for them and that they provide significant free marketing for news publishers.
The Canadian government accuses Meta of using intimidation tactics, while Meta asserts that their stance is based on business decisions. The removal of news content from their platforms could potentially lead to a rise in misinformation and disinformation.
The outcome of the conflict between Meta and the Canadian government remains uncertain, but Meta's success in influencing legislation in Australia indicates that they may have an impact on the proposed Online News Act in Canada as well.

 

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is at odds with the Canadian government over the proposed Online News Act (Bill C-18).

The legislation, which is currently being considered in the Senate’s Committee on Transport and Communications, would require online platforms like Facebook and Google to pay news publishers for the content shared on their platforms.

Tech corporations could potentially be liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in annual payments to publishers if the bill is enacted.

In response, Meta has threatened to remove news links on its platforms in Canada.

Lessons from Australia

Meta is no stranger to similar legislation. In 2021, the company temporarily blocked Australians from sharing news stories on Facebook in response to a government bill that required Google and Facebook to contribute to journalism.

The move inadvertently limited access to emergency services pages, causing significant backlash.

Meta Canada’s head of public policy, Rachel Curran, has stated that the company has learned from its Australian experience and will be more careful, responsible, and transparent in its actions should Bill C-18 pass.

Meta is no stranger to similar legislation. In 2021, the company temporarily blocked Australians from sharing news stories on Facebook in response to a government bill that required Google and Facebook to contribute to journalism.

Meta’s Stance on Bill C-18

Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs and former U.K. politician, argued in a public statement that the Online News Act is based on a flawed premise.

According to Clegg, Meta does not unfairly benefit from people sharing news content on its platforms; instead, it’s the news sites that need Facebook and Instagram.

He stated that only a tiny proportion (about 3%) of Facebook Feed content is made up of news links, while Meta has generated “more than $230 million” in “free marketing” for news publishers.

Curran reiterated these points during a Canadian Senate committee hearing, asserting that news content has little economic value for Meta.

She said the company is being asked to compensate news publishers for material that doesn’t financially benefit Meta, which is the main problem with the legislation.

Future Implications

The Canadian government has accused Meta of using intimidation tactics in response to potential regulations.

However, Meta maintains that its stance is based on business decisions. Should news content be removed from Facebook and Instagram, some argue it could lead to a rise in misinformation and disinformation as people seek information elsewhere.

Given Meta’s success in Australia, where the company managed to influence a watered-down version of the proposed legislation, it remains to be seen whether the tech giant will achieve similar results in Canada.

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