Social media company Meta informed Canadians who get their news from Facebook or Instagram that they will soon have to find it elsewhere. A few weeks ago, Meta warned Canada that it would end the sharing of news content if Ottawa did not revise its incoming online news legislation. Now it seems that Meta has decided to remove Canadians ability to share or view news articles and other content posted by publishers and broadcasters.
As well, Canadians who use Google have been told by the search engine company of its plans to remove news content when Bill C-18, the Online News Act, goes into effect before the end of this year. The Act requires tech giants to enter into financial agreements that will compensate Canadian news outlets for content shared or repurposed on their platforms.
While many large, national news outlets are applauding the Act, some smaller players say the fallout will be devastating for regional, local, and rural news outlets. David Beers is editor of The Tyree, a provincial digital newsmagazine based in British Columbia.
“If Canadian news content is blocked on Meta and Google, Google being the main search engine that most people use, and Meta being a major sharing platform, why would anybody start up an online news organization ever again in Canada?”
Australia was faced with this situation in 2021. Stephen Scheeler is a Canadian who lives in Australia and currently heads up an artificial intelligence research company. But Scheeler was also CEO of Facebook Australia and New Zealand up until 2017. He explains how the Australian government came to have a deal with the online tech giants.
“What happened was, the code was coming in, Facebook said we’re going to play hardball here, so they shut down news on Australia on the Facebook site. We were in a fire season at that time and the emergency services were being affected by this. So, it was seen as very irresponsible by Facebook. The politicians and the government jumped on it. Eventually they did get to a point where they came to a deal.”
Canada’s Online News Act aims to be more transparent than the existing Australian code of practice. Scheeler says that while their code is working there has been criticism, especially in the rural areas.
“The bargaining code that was brought in actually has never been activated. It was really just a threat. If you don’t negotiate in good faith, pay them for news, we will force you to the table. That, alone, has now sparked dozens of deals here in Australia. There’s criticism of that system. Rural or small journalism aren’t included. And then there’s problems with transparency. Nobody really knows how much money’s being exchanged.”
The act will come into effect by the end of the year.