Meta Platforms Inc, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced its decision to terminate news access for all users in Canada once the parliament-approved Online News Act goes into effect. This legislation, which was recently approved by the Senate upper chamber and awaits royal assent, aims to regulate internet giants and require them to pay news publishers. It comes as a response to concerns raised by Canada’s media industry, which seeks to prevent tech companies from dominating the online advertising market at the expense of news organizations.
In a statement, Meta confirmed the cessation of news availability on Facebook and Instagram for Canadian users before the Online News Act becomes enforceable. The company had already indicated this move, asserting that news holds no economic value for them and that users do not primarily utilize their platforms for news consumption.
The Online News Act establishes rules that compel platforms like Facebook and Google to negotiate commercial agreements and compensate news publishers for their content, resembling Australia’s pioneering legislation passed in 2021. However, US technology companies have expressed their apprehensions, deeming these proposals unsustainable for their business models. Google specifically argues that Canada’s law goes beyond those enacted in Australia and Europe, as it assigns a monetary value to news story links displayed in search results and potentially applies to outlets that do not produce news.
Google proposes revising the bill to base payment on the display of news content rather than links and to specify eligibility exclusively for businesses that produce news content and adhere to journalistic standards. A Google spokesperson emphasized the bill’s impracticality and expressed the company’s urgent intention to collaborate with the government to find a way forward.
While the Canadian federal government has resisted calls for modifications, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized Meta and Google, accusing them of employing “bullying tactics” in opposition to the legislation. Notably, these tech giants previously threatened to limit their services in Australia when similar regulations were enacted. Eventually, both companies reached agreements with Australian media organizations following amendments to the legislation.
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, the bill’s proponent, stated that the government would engage in a regulatory and implementation process following the legislation’s activation. Rodriguez highlighted the need for the government to defend Canadians against tech giants.
The heritage ministry has recently held discussions with Facebook and Google and intends to continue further dialogues, according to a government spokesperson. Danielle Coffey, president of the News Media Alliance global industry group, commended the Canadian Parliament’s approval of the bill and its resolve to confront Big Tech. Coffey expressed optimism in the increasing recognition worldwide for legal measures that ensure fair compensation and expressed hopes for the United States to follow suit.