Meta Blocks News in Canada, Google May Follow
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has initiated measures to block access to news content for users in Canada. The move comes in response to the Online News Act, passed by the Canadian Parliament. The law mandates that tech platforms engage in equitable revenue-sharing negotiations with news publishers for the use of their content. Google is also poised to follow Meta’s lead this year by blocking links to Canadian journalism.
According to Meta's policy communications director, Andy Stone, the law is based on a “flawed premise.” Consequently, Meta has chosen to cease the availability of news in Canada to ensure compliance. This policy transition will be implemented gradually and will affect both publishers and users sharing links to news on these platforms.
The Online News Act, set to come into effect by the end of 2023, was introduced to support the declining news industry, which has suffered due to the disproportionate shift in advertising benefits towards online platforms. Tech companies have been profiting from the original content of publishers without compensating them adequately.
Over the past decade, Canada has closed 450 news outlets, leading to public mistrust and the spread of misinformation. To address this, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation encourages direct visits to its website for reliable news updates.
Canada is not alone in pursuing publisher compensation laws. Australia's News Media Bargaining Code passed in 2021, is expected to generate $130 million annually. Both Google and Meta initially resisted the Australian law before entering negotiations. Likewise, the California state legislature has progressed with a similar legislative framework. Meta has already threatened to remove news content in the state if such a law is enacted.
While Meta and Google emphasize the positive role of online platforms in boosting website traffic and ad revenue, critics, including the News Media Alliance, assert that these companies leverage journalistic content for their own gains, affecting traffic dynamics and search results.
For example, Google, who is currently facing an antitrust lawsuit, is accused of using its sway to stifle competition and divert profits away from advertisers and publishers.
The situation in Canada will likely be a crucial test for future laws that seek to compel social platforms to compensate publishers for their content, including the proposal in California that’s scheduled for consideration in 2024.