Meta Platforms blocks news access in Canada

The Canadian government denounces the move as ‘irresponsible,’ while Meta argues that users do not primarily come to their platforms for news

 Electronics, Phone, Mobile Phone, Text

Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has started blocking access to news for all Canadian users. The move comes as a response to the recently enacted Online News Act, which requires major internet giants like Meta and Google to negotiate commercial agreements with Canadian news publishers to compensate them for their content.

The Canadian government has strongly criticised Meta’s decision, labelling it as ‘irresponsible.’ In contrast, Rachel Curran, Meta’s head of public policy in Canada, defended the company’s stance, stating that news outlets voluntarily share their content on social media for audience expansion, but users primarily do not visit Facebook and Instagram for news consumption.

This situation reflects a broader global trend where tech companies are being pushed to pay for news content. The Canadian law bears similarities to the groundbreaking legislation passed in Australia in 2021, which also led to threats of service limitations from Google and Facebook until agreements were reached with Australian media firms following legislative amendments.

However, Google has voiced opposition to the Canadian law, arguing that it goes beyond what was implemented in Australia and Europe by placing a price on news story links displayed in search results, even for outlets that do not primarily produce news content. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has joined the criticism, warning that the notion that news lacks economic value is “dangerous to our democracy and economy.”

Why does it matter?

The issue is not limited to Canada. A growing number of countries are also considering measures to make tech companies pay for news content. In California, a bill that mandates companies like Google and Meta to share advertising revenue with California media companies, recently gained bipartisan support as it passed the Assembly floor. The decision to block news content in response to such measures can limit the variety of news sources accessible to users and potentially impede access to vital information for a considerable portion of the population. How this situation unfolds in Canada could set a precedent for other jurisdictions facing similar challenges.