Minister Slams Meta as ‘Reckless’ for Following the Law with News Blocking

Facebook screenshot news

Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, took to Twitter today to slam Meta for following the law, specifically the Online News Act. 

“Meta’s reckless choice to block news before the Act is in force is hurting access to vital information on Facebook and Instagram,” said St-Onge. “We are calling on them to reinstate news sharing today for the safety of Canadians facing this emergency. We need more news right now, not less.”

The post on X was ironically linking to a media story on the wildfires in the Northwest Territories. X is not in the government’s sight for paying media publishers, yet.

The Online News Act was created to have big tech companies, specifically Meta and Google, pay media outlets every time someone shared a link to news on Facebook or Instagram, for example. Instead, both Meta and Google did not reach an agreement on what this amount would be and have exercised their right to block news, following the law created by the federal government.

University of Ottawa law professor, Michael Geist, replied to St-Onge’s allegations. “Bill C-18 is law. Government repeatedly cut off debate to give it royal assent before the summer. The potential harm to media and Canadians from blocked news links were dismissed and described by the Minister as a “business choice”. Who was being reckless?”, said Geist.

As of writing, news outlets that normally would get traffic from social networks such as Facebook and Instagram are losing out. But despite Bill C-18 being law, Canadians are sharing news anyways on Facebook.

How? They’re just posting screenshots or pasting text copied from news stories. These actions do not benefit these news outlets and they are actually getting screwed by the Online News Act, losing out on revenue. Maybe it’s time to limit copy and pasting within these apps…

Here’s an example of a Facebook user just pasting in text copied from a Global News story, that’s not available on Facebook:

Facebook news text

In a statement to the National Post, Meta referred to Facebook’s “safety check” feature, which was activated in Yellowknife yesterday. The feature allows people to check-in on the social network as “safe”.

“People in Canada can continue to use our technologies to connect with their communities and access reputable information, including content from official government agencies, emergency services and non-governmental organizations,” said the Meta spokesperson.

Are Canadians smart enough to visit a news website directly if news is not available conveniently on Facebook or Instagram? We would think so.

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