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Facebook, Instagram cease news access in Canada as publisher payment law comes into force

Meta Platforms Inc, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced plans to terminate access to news content on both platforms for all users in Canada. This decision comes in response to the implementation of the Online News Act, a parliamentary legislation that mandates internet giants to pay news publishers. The bill received approval from the Senate upper chamber and awaits royal assent from the governor general. The Canadian media industry has been advocating for stricter regulations on tech companies to protect news businesses from being overshadowed in the online advertising market. Meta confirmed the news restriction, stating, “Today, we are confirming that news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada prior to the Online News Act taking effect.”

Facebook had previously indicated its intention to take such action, citing the lack of economic value associated with news content on their platforms and emphasizing that users primarily utilize the platforms for purposes other than news consumption. The legislation itself entails provisions that compel platforms like Facebook and Google (owned by Alphabet) to negotiate commercial agreements and compensate news publishers for their content, mirroring the groundbreaking law implemented in Australia in 2021.

The US tech companies argue that these proposals are not sustainable for their business models. Google, in particular, highlights that Canada’s legislation is broader than those enacted in Australia and Europe, asserting that it places a monetary value on news story links displayed in search results and can apply to outlets that do not produce news content. Google suggests revising the bill to base payments on the display of news content rather than links, while also ensuring eligibility exclusively for businesses that produce news and adhere to journalistic standards. A Google spokesperson expressed their belief that the current bill remains “unworkable” and conveyed the company’s urgent desire to collaborate with the government to find a way forward.

Despite the pushback from tech giants, the Canadian federal government has thus far resisted calls for revisions. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized Meta and Google, accusing them of employing “bullying tactics” in their opposition to the legislation. Previously, Google and Facebook threatened to limit their services in Australia when similar rules were enacted, but later reached agreements with Australian media companies after amendments were made to the legislation.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, the bill’s introducer, stated that the government will engage in a regulatory and implementation process once the legislation takes effect. The heritage ministry has recently held meetings with Facebook and Google and looks forward to further discussions. In response to the bill’s approval in the Senate, Danielle Coffey, president of the News Media Alliance global industry group, commended the Canadian Parliament for standing up to Big Tech and expressed hope for similar legal actions in the United States and worldwide to ensure fair compensation for news publishers.


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