Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced its plans to cease providing access to news content on its platforms for all users in Canada. This decision comes in response to the forthcoming implementation of the Online News Act, a legislation approved by the Senate upper chamber and awaiting royal assent.
The Online News Act was proposed in order to address concerns raised by Canada’s media industry, which seeks stricter regulations for tech companies to prevent them from overshadowing news organizations in the online advertising market. Under this act, platforms like Facebook and Google will be obligated to negotiate commercial agreements and compensate news publishers for the use of their content, drawing parallels to a pioneering law enacted in Australia last year.
Facebook had already hinted at its intentions to take this course of action, asserting that news content holds no economic value for the company and that its users primarily engage with the platform for reasons other than consuming news.
The Online News Act outlines specific rules that require platforms to remunerate news publishers for their content. However, both Facebook and Google have expressed their concerns, stating that the proposed regulations are not sustainable for their respective businesses. Google, in particular, argues that the Canadian legislation is more expansive compared to similar laws in Australia and Europe, as it assigns a monetary value to news story links displayed in search results, potentially encompassing outlets that do not produce news.
Google has suggested revisions to the bill, proposing that payments be based on the display of news content rather than links and limiting eligibility for compensation to businesses that both produce news and adhere to journalistic standards.
A spokesperson from Google emphasized the company’s belief that the current bill remains “unworkable” and expressed a desire to collaborate urgently with the Canadian government to find a way forward.
Despite objections from tech giants, the Canadian federal government has so far resisted calls to amend the legislation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently criticized Meta and Google for employing “bullying tactics” in their campaign against the proposed regulations.
In Australia, similar legislation faced opposition from Google and Facebook, leading to threats of reducing services. However, both companies eventually reached agreements with Australian media organizations after amendments were made to the law.
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who introduced the bill, confirmed that the government plans to engage in a regulatory and implementation process once the legislation takes effect. Rodriguez underscored the importance of the government’s role in safeguarding the interests of Canadians against powerful tech companies.
The heritage ministry has already conducted meetings with representatives from Facebook and Google and looks forward to further discussions, according to a government spokesperson.
Danielle Coffey, president of the News Media Alliance global industry group, commended the Canadian Parliament for taking a stand against “Big Tech” following the approval of the bill in the Senate. Coffey expressed optimism about the growing recognition of the need for legal action to ensure fair compensation, both within Canada and internationally, and expressed hope for similar measures in the United States.