Meta bans news content to dodge Bill C-18

Jun 23, 2023 | Biz/Tech, Canadian News, News

Tech and social media giant Meta, owner of platforms like Facebook and Instagram, confirmed Thursday it will place a ban on news content on its sites.

This comes as a response to Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, receiving royal assent.

The purpose of the Bill is to rebalance power dynamics in the digital news sphere, by requiring big players like Meta to compensate Canadian media outlets and individual journalists for reposting their content.

Over the next few months, Meta will slowly begin removing news content from their platforms.

The Online News Act has the capacity to impact Canadians’ use of local news.

A 2021 research study conducted by Kevin Chan, global director and head of public policy for Facebook Canada, found about 25 per cent of Canadians use Facebook as their primary source for news.

The passing of this Bill has generated mixed reactions from stakeholders.

Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, said in a tweet Bill C-18 “is an important step towards supporting local news and Canadian content in the media.”

Postmedia Network Corp., a media company that owns several prominent publications in Canada including the National Post, made similar remarks in a written statement.

“Journalism isn’t free, Bill C-18 is a first step in ensuring news media content creators can be fairly compensated for the costs associated with keeping Canadians informed and begins the journey toward a viable online ecosystem,” the company said.

While media outlets seem to be happy about this proposed change because it means more revenue and a more equal power balance online, Meta said the company believes the Act is wrong.

Nick Clegg, president of Global Affairs at Meta, said in a published statement the Online News Act is “based on a fundamentally flawed premise,” and that “Meta does not benefit unfairly from people sharing links to news content on our platform.”

In another media statement, Meta made its decision to remove news content loud and clear.

“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,” Meta said.

The Department of Canadian Heritage is now working towards outlining the Bill and creating guidelines for implementation, a process that could take about six months.

Australia had a similar law introduced in 2021 and Meta temporarily removed news content from Facebook in the country.

As a result, Meta, Google, and independent publishers reached their own agreements, and the minister never followed through on the process of designating who would be impacted by the law.

The Canadian bill is more defined and while it does not list specific platforms who must comply, it outlines the criteria that would implicate companies under the new law.

Google has yet to announce its plans for Google News going forward.