If Canadian Online News Act becomes law, Meta will turn off news access for Canadian users


Facebook and other social media platforms have become a source of news consumption for millions of users worldwide. Many of the traditional news distribution services are adapting or falling to the side to make way for this new method of news dispersal. But if the Canadian Online News Act passes in its current form, Meta has said it will cut off news content for Canadian users.

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The Online News Act or House of Commons Bill C-18, introduced on April 2022, laid out rules to force platforms like Meta and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers for their content.

“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 said as a reason to suspend news access in the country. Google is also responding by testing “limited news censorship” should the bill pass.

Natalie Campbell, the Senior Director for North American Government and Regulatory Affairs at the Internet Society, a global non-profit that advocates for an open, globally-connected, and secure Internet, also weighed in:

“The responses from Meta and Google to the Online News Act are a troubling indication of the effect the bill will have on the Internet. Large online platforms and many other websites will be unable to link to online news they haven’t compensated for due to the huge legal risks, so the restriction of online information will be one of its inevitable outcomes.

“Whether or not big tech does ultimately pay up, it’s important to recognize that the bill threatens to empower them, rather than rein them in. Only the biggest platforms will be able to bear the prohibitive costs of the regulation, creating barriers to entry and growth for Canadian innovators and businesses.

“The question Canadians should be asking is why the government is trying to restrict people from using the open Internet the way it was meant to be. Trying to control how people use links and access content will not only result in content blocking. It drives us away from an open and globally connected Internet, and the many crucial ways we rely on it in our daily lives.”

Natalie Campbell

Reuters says the bill is in response to a Canadian news media industry that has suffered financial losses due to the rise of Google and Meta, which take a substantial portion of the market. There is no definitive idea of what sort of news content Meta intends to block in Canada. It will be interesting to see how the tech giants and the Canadian government navigate this.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2023.


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