Meta will be discontinuing access to news content on its social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram) for all Canadian users. This decision is in response to the recently passed Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, which received royal assent on Thursday, June 22. Royal assent signifies the final approval of a bill, allowing its provisions to be implemented and enforced.
Under the new legislation, tech giants like Meta and Google will be required to compensate news outlets for featuring their stories and reports on their platforms. Meta has however stated that it will gradually block news content for Canadian users in the coming months, emphasizing that the change will not be immediate.
Meta in the media statement said,
We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18, passed today in Parliament, content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada.
As per a report, with the bill having received royal assent, the subsequent step involves the Department of Canadian Heritage drafting regulations that outline the application of the act and offer guidance on its implementation. It is anticipated that the process of finalizing these regulations will take approximately six months. Once completed, Bill C-18 is expected to come into force.
However according to CBC, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez in a statement said,
A free and independent press is fundamental to our democracy… It levels the playing field by putting the power of big tech in check and ensuring that even our smallest news business can benefit through this regime and receive fair compensation for their work.
While the impact of this decision may come as a surprise to Canadian users who rely on social media platforms for accessing news, Meta had previously indicated its stance on June 1st, stating that it would discontinue access to news content for Canadian users if the Online News Act (Bill C-18) became law.
In its statement, Meta mentioned ongoing testing on both platforms to limit certain users and publishers from viewing or sharing specific news content within Canada.
What about Google?
According to the report, Google, the prominent search site, has indicated that it is contemplating following a similar approach to Meta by blocking news content. It states that it is striving to “avoid an outcome no one wants.”
Since May 2023, Google has been releasing statements regarding the passing of this new bill. In one of its statements, Google explained that it has been expressing concerns and presenting thoughtful solutions and alternative models for over a year.
These proposed solutions aimed to achieve the underlying policy goals more effectively. However, instead of considering a fund model or addressing raised concerns from Google and others, recent amendments have overlooked significant issues, exacerbated existing ones, and introduced a range of new inconsistencies.
In one of its statements, Google further said,
If we must pay publishers simply for linking to their sites, making us lose money with every click, it would be reasonable for us, or any business, to reconsider why we would continue to do so.
Nevertheless, Google is looking to remain optimistic and maintain a strong focus on collaborating constructively with Senators, the government, and the news industry.
What is the Bill C-18 Online News Act and why is it important?
In April 2022, Minister Pablo Rodriguez introduced Bill C-18, the Online News Act, to promote fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace. It aims to ensure fair compensation for news media and journalists, including independent local and rural organizations.
One of the goals is to force digital giants, such as Meta and Google, to compensate news publishers for the use of their content as a means also to address the “imbalance” between tech platforms and Canadian news publications, allowing them to make “fair commercial deals” without the need for government intervention.
The Canadian government views this action as crucial in its efforts to provide support to an industry that has experienced a continuous decline since the advent of the Internet. The government highlights that over the past decade, more than 470 media outlets in Canada have ceased operations, while Canadian journalism jobs have dwindled by at least one-third during the same period.
By mandating compensation for news content, the government aims to address the challenges faced by the industry and foster its sustainability. Canada is not the first country to pass this bill as Bill C-18 is modeled after a similar law in Australia.
Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!