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Canadians will no longer have access to news content on Facebook and Instagram, Meta says

The social media giant Meta has confirmed that it will end access to news on its social media sites for all Canadian users before Bill C-18, the Online News Act, comes into force.

Bill C-18, the Online News Act, is currently awaiting royal assent after passing the House and Senate

A silhouetted person holds a phone with the Facebook logo on it.

The social media giant Meta has confirmed that it will end access to news on its social media sites for all Canadian users before Bill C-18, the Online News Act, comes into force.

The tech company made the announcement Thursday, the day after Parliament passed Bill C-18. The law will force tech giants like Meta and Google to pay news outlets for posting their journalism on their platforms.

Meta said it will begin to block news for Canadian users over the next few months and the change will not be immediate.

"We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18 … content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada," said Meta in a media statement.

The bill is awaiting royal assent after passing both the House and the Senate. Once it receives assent, it should take six months to come into force.

In response to Meta's announcement, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a media statement that following royal assent of Bill C-18, the federal government will engage in a "regulatory and implementation process."

He said Meta currently has no obligations under the Act.

"If the government can't stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?" said Rodriguez.

A spokesperson for the minister said his office had meetings with Facebook and Google this week.

"We look forward to further discussions with the platforms," they said.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez rises during question period

Meta first threatened to end access to news content for Canadian users of Facebook and Instagram earlier this month, in response to the looming passage of Bill C-18.

The company said it was conducting tests on ending news access for a small percentage of Canadians. Between one and five per cent of the 24 million Canadians that use Facebook or Instagram were said to be affected.

Meta said this test is still ongoing.

"The changes affecting news content will not otherwise impact Meta's products and services in Canada," the company said.

WATCH | Feds open to discussion with tech giants over Bill C-18, but won't accept threats:

Heritage Minister: Feds open to discussion with tech giants over online news act, but won't accept threats

3 months ago

Duration 10:56

"Meta and Google know my door is always open…but, I will not accept threats. That's unacceptable for Canadians," says Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez. This as Meta says it would end news access for Canadians if the federal government's proposed Online News Act becomes law.

On June 7, shortly after Meta announced it would conduct this product test, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said bullying tactics would not work with his government.

"The fact that these internet giants would rather cut off Canadians' access to local news than pay their fair share is a real problem, and now they're resorting to bullying tactics to try and get their way. It's not going to work," said Trudeau.

Google, which has said it is considering the same approach to blocking news as Meta, said in a media statement on Thursday that it is attempting to "avoid an outcome no one wants."

"Every step of the way, we've proposed thoughtful and pragmatic solutions that would have improved the bill and cleared the path for us to increase our already significant investments in the Canadian news ecosystem," said Google.

"So far, none of our concerns have been addressed. Bill C-18 is about to become law and remains unworkable."

The company says it is "continuing to urgently seek to work" with the government to find a "path forward."

C-18 meant to lead to 'fair commercial deals,' government says

The federal government introduced Bill C-18 in April 2022 with the goal of forcing digital giants, like Meta and Google, to compensate news publishers for the use of their content.

It is meant to address the "imbalance" between tech platforms and Canadian news publications, allowing them to make "fair commercial deals" without the need for government intervention, said the federal government.

Rodriguez said the amount of money each publisher gets from these digital giants will be decided by negotiations; there is no preset formula.

If no voluntary arrangement is reached, news businesses can initiate a mandatory bargaining process and go to a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) arbitration panel for a binding decision.

After reaching the Senate, C-18 received amendments and was sent back to the House. These amendments were an attempt to quell the growing opposition from media companies that say requiring payment for posting links is unfair.

Rodriguez accepted 10 of the Senate's 12 amendments and rejected two that he said would have materially changed the legislation's intent.

Bill C-18 was pitched as a way to support an industry that has seen a steady decline since the emergence of the internet.

Facebook made the same threat. They left Australia for a week, then they came back.

– Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriquez

According to the government, more than 450 news outlets in Canada have closed since 2008 and at least one-third of Canadian journalism jobs have disappeared over that same time period.

The compensation that news publishers extract from these digital giants is meant to be used, in large part, to fund the creation of new content to protect the "sustainability of the Canadian news ecosystem," said the government.

Bill C-18 is modelled after a similar bill in Australia, the country that first forced digital companies to pay for the use of news content.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, more than $190 million has been paid already to Australian media companies since the bill was enacted last year. The big winners have been legacy media and larger media outlets.

Tech companies strenuously opposed Australia's efforts to make them pay for news.

Google threatened to shut down access to the search engine in that country if the bill went ahead as planned. The company ultimately relented and cut deals with a number of news outlets to avoid a binding arbitration process.

Meta, known as Facebook at the time, did end up temporarily blocking Australians from sharing news stories on its platforms. The Australian government and the tech company ended up striking a deal and the news ban was lifted.

"Facebook made the same threat. They left Australia for a week, then they came back," Rodriguez told CBC's Power & Politics.

"We'll see what they do. We cannot base our decision as a government on threats from a company."

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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