Facebook and Instagram Test Blocking News in Canada

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In anticipation of the passage of Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, Meta is preparing to limit news content availability on Facebook and Instagram in Canada. The company announced yesterday that it will begin testing changes to its platforms, which would restrict some users and publishers from viewing or sharing certain news content.

This move comes in response to the expected enactment of Bill C-18, a legislation that, as Meta points out, fails to acknowledge the functioning of social media platforms and the preferences of their users. Despite these concerns, Meta stated that complying with the new law is a business decision they must and have made.

To ensure a seamless transition, Meta will undertake randomized product tests to construct an effective product solution for implementing these changes. During this testing phase, lasting several weeks, a small percentage of Canadian users will be alerted if they attempt to share news content.

These tests are poised to affect both Canadian and international news outlets present on Meta’s platforms. As per the current language of Bill C-18, news outlets are considered within scope if they primarily report on, investigate, or explain current issues or events of public interest.

Despite these limitations, news outlets will maintain access to their accounts and Pages, allowing them to post news links and content. However, some of this content will not be accessible to the Canadian audience. Additionally, outlets will still have access to Meta’s Business Suite and advertising tools. Those participating in the testing phase will also have a review process at their disposal should they believe their operations do not align with the legislative intent of Bill C-18.

Meta maintains that product testing is a standard industry practice and a crucial part of its commitment to responsibly and transparently complying with the Online News Act. While the product tests are temporary measures, Meta has made its intention clear to permanently cease the availability of news content in Canada following the approval of Bill C-18.

Back in March, Meta said if Bill C-18 passes it would block news in Canada. The federal government says it wants Meta and other tech giants to pay Canadian news media and journalists for linking to their content. Meta argues people sharing news links to their Facebook pages is free marketing and worth a reportedly $230 million according to the company’s estimates.

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