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Your questions about Meta and other social media giants blocking news in Canada, explained

Some Instagram users in Canada are finding their access to news accounts restricted as Meta and other social media companies prepare for the country's Online News Act to come into effect.

Social media companies say move is necessary to comply with Online News Act

Big Tech vs. Canadian news: the battle over C-18, explained | About That

15 days ago

Duration 10:43

The federal government has suspended all of its advertising on Facebook and Instagram as the clash with tech giants like Meta and Google over Bill C-18, the Online News Act, continues. Andrew Chang explores what the bill means for how you get your news online.

Some Instagram users in Canada are finding their access to news accounts restricted as Meta and other social media companies prepare for the country's Online News Act to come into effect.

Meta, the company that owns Instagram and Facebook, says it underwent testing in June to limit some users and publishers from viewing or sharing news content in Canada. It says tests impact up to five per cent of Canadian users.

Many have questions about the federal government's Online News Act, why it's being opposed by social media companies and how the friction between the two will impact Canadian users.

Here are some of your questions, answered.

What is the Online News Act?

The Online News Act, or Bill C-18, is a piece of Canadian legislation that requires tech companies like Google and Meta to compensate news outlets for sharing links to their pages. The law received royal assent on June 22 and is slated to take effect "no later than 180 days" after that date.

What are the concerns for social media companies?

Critics, including Meta and Google, say Bill C-18 is unfair, unworkable and amounts to a tax on links, with no recognition of the traffic or "free marketing" the tech companies provide to news publishers.

Along with blocking access to some users, Meta has begun an ad campaign on its Facebook and Instagram platforms, criticizing the law and explaining its decision to remove news links.

"The Online News Act is based on the incorrect premise that social media companies benefit unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, but the reverse is true," said Lisa Laventure, spokesperson for Meta, in a statement Monday.

"News outlets voluntarily share content on social media to expand their audiences and help their bottom line. Unfortunately, the only way we can reasonably comply with this legislation is to end news availability for people in Canada in the coming weeks."

Is this what the bill's proponents wanted?

No. Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez called Meta's move "disappointing" and said Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.

Meanwhile, Paul Deegan, the head of News Media Canada, called Meta's move a "kick in the shins" to Canadians at a time when the value and need for credible information has never been greater.

"Meta's decision to 'unfriend' Canada by denying access to trusted sources of news for some of their users, as wildfires burn and when public safety is at stake, is irresponsible and tone deaf," Deegan told CBC News in an email.

"This hard-nose lobbying tactic is more evidence of the power imbalance that exists between dominant platforms and publishers."

Will this happen to all of us soon?

In order to comply with the law, both Google and Meta have stated they would remove news links in Canada before the law comes into effect by the end of the year.

Rodriguez has said Google and Meta do not have obligations under the law because the regulatory process is just beginning.

"We're deeply convinced that Google's and Facebook's concerns can be resolved through the regulatory process. If Facebook truly believes that news has no value, they can say so at the negotiating table," Rodriguez said in a statement on Monday.

"Threats to pull news instead of complying with the laws in our country only highlight the power that platforms hold over news organizations, both big and small."

Google has said it will work with the government throughout the regulatory process, while Meta believes the process isn't equipped to make changes to parts of the legislation with which it disagrees.

What is CBC doing about this?

Legacy media and broadcasters have praised the bill, which promises to "enhance fairness" in the digital news marketplace and help bring in more money for shrinking newsrooms. Tech giants including Meta and Google have been blamed in the past for disrupting and dominating the advertising industry, eclipsing smaller, traditional players.

CBC/Radio-Canada's corporate position is that the Online News Act will help level the playing field and contribute to a healthy news ecosystem in Canada "at a time when 80 per cent of digital ad revenue goes to Facebook and Google," said spokesperson Leon Mar.

In an editor's blog, CBC News editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon has suggested audiences follow the broadcaster on TikTok and other apps, such as Gem and CBC Listen.

Has there been pushback?

Meta, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif., has taken similar steps in the past. In 2021, it briefly blocked news from its platform in Australia after the country passed legislation that would compel tech companies to pay publishers for using their news stories. It later struck deals with Australian publishers.

Gregory Taylor, a communications, media and film professor at the University of Calgary, pointed to Australia as an example for why Canadian news publishers should hold strong on their position.

"Facebook is really trying to assert itself, but in the end they can't afford to lose a lot of these markets," Taylor previously told CBC North. "I believe that we are at the leading edge of getting these companies to contribute to our democracy by bringing in this kind of funding model."

What is the answer to combat this?

Alfred Hermida, a journalism professor at the University of British Columbia, believes C-18 is a "flawed piece of legislation" that doesn't address greater issues in the news industry, such as the concentration of private media ownership.

"It doesn't take into account the record profits of media conglomerates like Bell and Rogers," he previously told CBC News.

"And it doesn't really do anything to support for more than 140 journalism startups that have been created in Canada since the year 2000."

In the near term, private messaging and chat groups may also be alternatives as Meta's Facebook Messenger does not appear to be affected by the company's plans to block news links.

With files from The Canadian Press

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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