Facebook Hints at Blocking News Content in Canada as a Last Resort

A Facebook representative has hinted that it could block news content in Canada following reports stating the government will require it to share its revenue with publishers.

A new report from National Post notes that the social media giant isn’t ruling out banning Canadian users from sharing news on its platform, saying it will voluntarily report revenues and promote journalism in the country.

Facebook Canada’s head of policy, Kevin Chan, told a Canadian parliamentary committee on Monday that any law that forces Facebook to pay publishers each time their news content is shared on its platform “fundamentally breaks the premise of how a free and open internet works.”

“The reality is if you speak to some of the local news publishers, they’ll tell you that in fact they are benefiting from being able to share freely,” he continued.

While the legislation has yet to be introduced, Canada’s Liberal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has insisted a bill is “coming soon.” According to the report, Guilbeault is looking at Australia’s approach to force giants like Google and Facebook to hold talks with news publishers and reach an agreement.

“News is not free and has never been,” said Guilbeault. “Our position is clear: publishers must be adequately compensated for their work and we will support them as they deliver essential information for the benefit of our democracy and the health and well-being of our communities.”

Chan, on the other hand, noted that Australia’s model was completely impractical for Facebook.

“Unfortunately, the proposed legislation did not acknowledge basic facts about the internet, did not recognize the value that platforms provide to news publishers, stood to benefit only large media conglomerates and not independent media outlets,” he told MPs at the House of Commons Heritage Committee.

Defending Facebook’s contributions to journalism, Chan highlighted the company’s contributions to the Canadian Press News Fellowship, an initiative in which Facebook has invested $8 million CAD and created 10 jobs in journalism that publish to wire services.