CBC Demands Meta Stop Following the Law and Unblock News
In response to the ongoing wildfire crisis, Catherine Tait, President & CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, has penned an urgent plea to Sir Nick Clegg, President of Global Affairs at Meta, regarding the critical need for timely news distribution on Meta’s platforms.
Canada’s Northern regions, including the Northwest Territories’ territorial capital, Yellowknife, and parts of British Columbia, are grappling with devastating wildfires. Over 600 active fires are presently ravaging these areas. During such dire circumstances, access to dependable, current information becomes a matter of life and death, says Tait.
Historically, residents of Canada’s North, encompassing Indigenous Peoples, have relied on Facebook as a primary source for news updates concerning their communities, writes Tait. However, they now face an alarming void of such vital information on Meta’s platforms Facebook and Instagram, due to a recent decision to block Canadian news accounts, in line with the Online News Act.
CBC/Radio-Canada says the news blockade not only hinders the sharing of urgent news from credible sources but also provides a breeding ground for misinformation and disinformation. CBC says Facebook and Instagram accounts specifically tailored for Northern communities and Indigenous Peoples aren’t accessible to relay essential updates like evacuation alerts.
The public broadcaster has emphasized that the decision to block news has no bearing on the upcoming Online News Act set to be implemented in mid-December. Additionally, there’s no existing financial agreement between CBC/Radio-Canada and Meta. Drawing a parallel with the global pandemic, Tait asserts that dire situations warrant exceptional measures to safeguard lives.
The plea underscores the immediate need for Meta to suspend its news blockade, especially concerning the wildfire emergency. The call to action highlights the humanitarian aspect of the issue, urging Meta to prioritize the welfare of affected communities during this crisis.
Copies of the letter have also been shared with notable figures, including The Honourable Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Canadian Heritage; Garrick Tiplady, Managing Director, Canada, at Meta; and Claude Galipeau, Executive Vice-President of Corporate Development at CBC/Radio-Canada.
“CBC president calls on Meta to stop blocking news links. In ideal world, Meta wouldn’t be blocking CBC news links, because CBC news content would excluded from Bill C-18. Public has already funded it and anything extending its reach should be encouraged,” said University of Ottawa law professor, Michael Geist, in response to the CBC demand.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week Meta was prioritizing profits over democracy in the latter’s response to the Online News Act. Trudeau demanded Meta share its profits with Canadians, because legacy media hasn’t been smart enough to keep up with digital advertising like Mark Zuckerberg’s company.
Ironically, Trudeau’s Liberal Party continues to ramp up advertising on Facebook. As Geist points out, “As @JustinTrudeau once again criticizes Meta for complying with Bill C-18 by blocking news links, the Liberal party is running nearly 100 different active ads on the platform, including new ones that were launched just last week.”
Are Canadians smart enough to look for news on sources other than Facebook or Instagram? The government doesn’t think so it seems. How hard is it to visit the actual website of a news source, or even use X which has real-time news?