Facebook Parent Says No Talks with Feds, News Removal Coming

Despite the newly minted Bill C-18, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is moving forward with its decision to permanently remove Canadian news from its platforms.

The Head of Public Policy at Meta in Canada, Rachel Curran, confirmed that no negotiations with the federal government are in progress.

“We are proceeding towards ending the availability of news permanently in Canada,” Curran announced on CBC’s Power & Politics on Tuesday.

Bill C-18, which officially became law last week, demands that tech giants like Google and Meta pay media outlets for news content shared or repurposed on their platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

“Our trajectory is set. There is no way to negotiate out of the framework of this bill,” said Curran. Meta intends to comply with the law by removing news from its Facebook and Instagram platforms by the end of 2023.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez previously expressed optimism that the Liberal government could broker an agreement with Meta that allows news to continue being available on the company’s platforms, while adhering to C-18’s stipulations. However, Curran insists that the terms of Bill C-18 leave no space for negotiations.

Curran highlighted that the bill differs significantly from its Australian counterpart, which allowed tech companies to negotiate private deals with publishers outside of the regulatory framework. She explained the lack of a similar provision in C-18, stating, “I wish there was a way to reach deals or come to some kind of compromised solution outside the framework of Bill C-18, but there’s really not.”

Currently, Meta has private deals with 18 Canadian news outlets, but according to Curran, the passage of C-18 puts these agreements at risk.

The online news bill doesn’t make much sense, considering publishers actually benefit when news links are shared on Facebook, when people click through to read articles. With news removal, publishers will lose traffic from Facebook social sharing.

In response to potential news removal by tech giants, Rodriguez reassured that the government will ensure newsrooms have the resources required for journalists to continue their work, although he remained vague on how this would be accomplished, stating every option is on the table.

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