Meta’s Canadian News Block Barely Dents User Engagement

Despite being blasted by the federal government including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Meta’s recent decision to block news links in Canada seems to have had little impact on the daily active users and overall time spent on the Facebook platform in the country. This insight comes from data provided by digital analytics companies, bolstering Meta’s claim that news content is of little economic value to the company, reports Reuters.

According to Similarweb, the daily active users and time spent on Facebook have remained nearly unchanged in Canada since Meta began blocking news at the start of August., another analytics firm, corroborated these findings, indicating no meaningful change in the platform’s usage for the month of August in Canada.

This lack of impact supports Meta’s stance in an ongoing standoff with the Canadian government concerning a new law that requires internet giants to pay publishers for news articles shared on their platforms. The Online News Act was passed in Parliament in June, and both Meta and Alphabet have labelled the law as unfair to their businesses.

Meta has increasingly sought to minimize the presence of news and other civic content on its platforms due to regulatory pressures globally. The company has stated that news articles make up less than 3% of Facebook feeds and hold no economic value. Instead, Meta aims to focus on lighter subjects, such as fashion, entertainment, and sports. This shift aligns with recent reports from the Reuters Institute and Pew Research Center, indicating a steep decline in news consumption via social media platforms.

Prior to the news link block in Canada, referrals from Facebook to popular Canadian news sites had already decreased about 35% year-over-year in July and about 74% since 2020, as per Similarweb’s data. However, Meta’s transparency reports for the United States, the only country for which such data is available, reveal that news remains among the most viewed content categories on the platform.

The Canadian government has been critical of Meta’s decision, particularly during the current wildfire crisis that has displaced thousands. Specific guidelines regarding the implementation of the Online News Act are expected to be released by late December. Canada’s new Heritage Minister, Pascale St-Onge, has been in talks with both Facebook and Google concerning this law.

As Meta faces scrutiny for its decision to block news links, which is within its rights as per the Online News Act, early data suggests that the move has had little effect on its user engagement in Canada. This comes even as the company prepares for potentially contentious negotiations with publishers, set to kick off next year, with the CRTC overseeing the latter (what could go wrong?).

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