Meta announced today that the process of ending news availability in Canada has officially begun.
The company continues to hold its ground, refusing to comply with a law it deems “unworkable”, and has not engaged in discussions with the government, as Google has, in hopes to work out a resolution.
Bill C-18, which passed in June, forces the two platforms to enter into negotiations with news publishers to pay them for linking to their content.
The Government of Canada, the province of Quebec, a few cities in Quebec and media companies expressed their support for the news media sector, after the platforms refused to concede, by pulling advertising from Facebook and Instagram, a move that failed to sway Meta.
Meta said that Canadians will no longer be able to view or share content posted by Canadian and international news publishers and broadcasters. News outlets are identified, the company says, based on the legislative definitions and guidance from the Online News Act.
Christopher Curtis, owner of independent digital news outlet The Rover, took to Twitter to express his concerns upon seeing the news posts from his organization blocked from viewing on Instagram.
He wrote, “Hello @PascaleStOnge_ , I know it’s important to save big newspapers but those of us who aren’t owned by U.S. vampire hedge funds need to put food on the table for our families. This fight with Meta is making that harder and harder. Our livelihoods are at stake.”
The new Heritage minister, Pascale St. Onge, said that the government has no plans to soften its stance against the tech giants after the departure of Pablo Rodriguez in last week’s cabinet shuffle.
Karen Tankard, assistant professor of communications at University Canada West, said that the legislation, though inevitable to address the huge financial losses suffered by Canada’s news organizations, “was always going to be contentious,” adding that “Meta and Google were never going to part with their enormous wealth without a protracted fight.”
Canada and Australia, Tankard added, are at the “forefront of a tussle” that critics argue could set a precedent for legislators in the U.S. and Europe, for instance, to follow.
Former Canadian Heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez has remained steadfast since he introduced the bill last summer, until last month when he said that he will clarify certain vague points with the bill.
A compromise is necessary, said Benoit Skinazi, chief marketing officer (CMO) of programmatic advertising company Sharethrough, to avoid cutting off the huge amount of visitors and revenue that news publishers currently get from Meta and Google, unless the government can financially support all news companies, which, he said, it will be unable to.
Tankard added, “Canadian taxpayers already support the CBC, and shouldn’t be expected to support private communications companies. Government support for profit-making communications companies in a significant way would be a non-starter for many.”
Meta says that the changes to news availability will be implemented over the course of the next few weeks. It’s unclear whether its newly launched Threads will be subject to Bill C-18; the company has sought clarity on this from Heritage, The Globe and Mail reported.
The legislation only takes effect in 180 days from the date of its passage.