Feds Propose Online News Act Regulations, Meta Pushes Back

Canada’s Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St. Onge, announced on Friday proposed regulations to implement the Online News Act, aiming to ensure fair compensation for Canadian news organizations when their work appears on major digital platforms.

However, the regulations were met with resistance from Meta, the parent company of Facebook, who dismissed the legislation as fundamentally flawed.

The proposed regulations, set to be open for a 30-day public consultation period starting September 2, 2023, aim to clarify which digital platforms are subject to the Act and the conditions they must meet to qualify for an exemption from mandatory bargaining with news publishers.

“Tech giants can and must contribute their fair share. Canadians expect a vibrant news landscape where we can get the facts when we need them,” said Minister St. Onge in a statement. “The Online News Act requires these dominant platforms to bargain fairly with news businesses—both big and small.”

Meta Canada countered the proposed regulations, stating that they won’t impact the company’s previous decision to withdraw news content availability in Canada.

“As we have communicated to the government, the regulatory process is not equipped to address the fundamentally flawed premise of the Online News Act,” said Rachel Curran, Head of Public Policy at Meta Canada, in a statement to iPhone in Canada. “As the legislation is based on the incorrect assertion that Meta benefits unfairly from the news content shared on our platforms, today’s proposed regulations will not impact our business decision to end news availability in Canada.”

After the public consultation period concludes, the finalized regulations will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will be formally bound by these regulations.

The CRTC will also define additional elements like the mandatory bargaining process, a code of conduct, and rules against undue preference or discrimination. Details on how the public can engage in this part of the regulatory process are available on the CRTC’s website.

The federal government sees the Online News Act as a vital step for sustaining an independent press, while Meta argues that the legislation is based on false premises and could ultimately harm the way Canadians access news.

According to the feds, the newly enacted legislation could lead Google to contribute approximately $172 million annually and Meta’s Facebook around $62 million to support Canadian news publishers. These figures are calculated based on Google’s global search revenues and Meta’s global Facebook revenues. While these projections align with prior estimates from the department, they fall short of the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s more ambitious estimate of $329 million last year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously lashed out at Meta, saying “Facebook is putting corporate profits ahead of people’s safety,” referring to the inability of people to access wildfire news on the social network. While partially true, there are other ways to find news as well such as on X and directly visiting news websites.

This news fight doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Who do you think will come out on top in this fight? The federal government or Facebook?

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