Facebook Putting Profits Ahead of Democracy in News War: Trudeau

trudeau facebook

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a strong stance against Meta on Monday, condemning the tech giant for blocking domestic news on its platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, for following the federal government’s own law, Bill C-18. The move comes amidst devastating wildfires that have evacuated of tens of thousands of Canadians.

The Online News Act mandates Meta and Google to compensate for news articles shared on their platforms. These tech companies have chosen to block Canadian news from being shared on their platforms, which is following the federal government’s own law.

Speaking from a televised news conference in Prince Edward Island on Monday, Trudeau expressed his disapproval saying, “Facebook is putting corporate profits ahead of people’s safety.” He added that considering the dire situation, Meta’s decision was “inconceivable,” reports CTV News.

Last week, Federal Liberal cabinet ministers also took aim at Meta, branding its news embargo as both “reckless” and “irresponsible”. Furthermore, evacuees of the wildfires voiced their frustrations to local media outlets, highlighting that Meta’s blockade hampered their ability to share crucial information regarding the fires.

Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, is not being targeted by the Online News Act. Neither is Apple News, for example. The federal government has its sights on Meta and is publicly slamming Mark Zuckerberg’s company.

Asserting the responsibility of such corporations, Trudeau commented, “It’s time for us to expect more from corporations like Facebook that are making billions of dollars off of Canadians.”

Meta’s advertising platforms were created by some of the top engineers in the world, which legacy Canadian media has failed to keep up with. So therefore, according to Trudeau, Meta needs to share its profits for outsmarting newspaper digital advertising that has failed to keep up.

In response to the growing backlash, a spokesperson for Meta emphasized that Canadians can still procure information from official government bodies, emergency services, and non-governmental organizations via their platform. Additionally, to aid in the ongoing crisis, Facebook has activated its “Safety Check” feature, enabling users to inform their networks of their safety status during disasters.

This criticism comes at a time when Canada is grappling with its most severe wildfire season to date. Just in the past week, these relentless fires have wreaked havoc in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.  

Trudeau slammed Meta, saying they “should be sharing themselves some of the profits they make from advertising on Facebook,” while reiterating it is Facebook’s decision to put corporate profits ahead of allowing Canadians to access the news.

“Instead of making sure they’re paying their fair share of the advertising profits Facebook makes off of Canadians with the professional journalists and local news organizations that keep Canadians informed—they are choosing to block access to their sites—or access from sharing local news,” said a visibly upset Trudeau.

“This is Facebook’s choice. We’re simply saying, in a democracy, quality local journalism matters and it matters now more than ever before when people are worried about their homes, worried about communities and worried about the worst summer for extreme weather events we’ve had in a long, long time. Facebook is putting corporate profits ahead of our democracy and well being,” said the Prime Minister.

“Consequences of Bill C-18 were predictable and a deliberate choice. Government could have mandated contributions without invoking links, limited scope to exclude small and foreign sites from blocking or exempted some links. Instead it repeatedly cut off debate and ignored risks,” said University of Ottawa law professor, Michael Geist.

“MPs were told directly at committee about the likely Bill C-18 approach to links to emergency service information. No blocking of links from government sources or any non-news outlet page. The risks were readily apparent, yet the government did nothing,” clarified Geist, countering the Prime Minster’s words.

If news is currently blocked on Facebook and Instagram–are Canadians smart enough to go elsewhere to find information? I would sure hope so…

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