Facebook and Instagram to Block News in Canada if Bill C-18 Passes

Facebook and Instagram plan to ban all news links on their platforms in Canada if the federal government passes its Online News Act, also known as Bill C-18, into law — reports The Globe and Mail.

Proposed last year, Bill C-18 will force internet giants like Google and Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, Meta Platforms, to pay Canadian news media and journalists for linking to their content.

“If the Online News Act passes in its current form, we will end the availability of news content on Facebook and Instagram for people in Canada,” said a spokesperson for Meta. “A legislative framework that compels us to pay for links or content that we do not post, and which are not the reason the vast majority of people use our platform, is neither sustainable nor workable.”

According to Meta, less than 3% of the posts Canadians see on their Facebook feeds contain news links and they are not a significant source of revenue for the company.

Meta took a similar approach last year in Australia, blocking access to news content when the government wanted to institute a similar law that Ottawa says Bill C-18 is based on. The company ultimately restored news access in Australia and entered financial agreements with Australian news publishers after the country agreed to make some changes to the legislation.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said it is “disappointing” to see the tech giant resort to threats instead of working with the Canadian government.

“This tactic didn’t work in Australia, and it won’t work here. Canadians won’t be intimidated. All we’re asking Facebook to do is negotiate fair deals with news outlets when they profit from their work,” Minister Rodriguez said. “This is part of a disappointing trend this week that tech giants would rather pull news than pay their fair share.”

Meta argued that news outlets’ ability to share links and other content from their websites to their Facebook pages is free marketing, worth over $230 million according to the company.

Last month, Google started blocking news content for some Canadian users across its search engine and the Discover feed on Android devices to test a “potential product response” to Bill C-18.

Executives from Google testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage earlier this week, telling MPs that Bill C-18, in its present form, “has some very serious problems.” In an open letter to Canadians, Google said that the way Bill C-18 is currently framed “encourages cheap clickbait” over quality journalism.

Bill C-18 is now making its way through the Senate, after passing in the House of Commons in December. The legislation could pass through Parliament by summer.

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