In its bid to arm-twist the Canadian government over the proposed Bill C-18 or Online News Act, Meta announced that Facebook and Instagram news will not be available to some users in Canada. Facebook and Instagram news will be suspended while Canadian lawmakers are deliberating the bill in the Senate, and the services will be permanently truncated if the lawmakers pass the bill into law.
Bill C-18 is targeted at making Google and Facebook among other big techs make payments to media publishers and broadcasters in Canada for the use of their news content. Online News Act will compel major internet companies to pay Canadian news outlets directly or through a collective arrangement or to go into mandatory arbitration if there is a deadlock in the agreements.
Meta is the parent company of Facebook and Instagram as well as other internet platforms. The company’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said a few days ago that instead of being forced to make payments to Canadian news publishers, Facebook and Instagram would suspend news services to some users in the country and ultimately truncate the services if the government of Canada does not reverse its course.
“Randomized tests will help us build an effective product solution to end news availability in Canada”, Meta stated. “We have made our choice,” it added. “While these product tests are temporary, we intend to end the availability of news content in Canada permanently following the passage of Bill C-18.”
The Minister for Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, said he is disappointed that Meta is trying to intimidate the Canadian government over what should be a national policy.
“The fact that Facebook is still refusing to work with Canadians shows how deeply irresponsible and out of touch they are,” he wrote on Twitter on Friday. “Once again this is a disappointing move from big tech and Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.”
Earlier this year, Google took the same stance against the government of Canada when it made its search engine unavailable for about 5% of Canadians. PM Justin Trudeau said Google made a “terrible mistake” by taking an aggressive approach to what could have been a level playing ground for all players.
In early 2021, Australia passed a bill similar to that of Canada and Meta responded by suspending news availability to the country. The web pages of some government services were also affected since people could not access their content. The issue was resolved by Meta entering into an agreement with Australian news publishers.