Sunday, April 14, 2024

‘Unfortunate and reckless’: Meta still unwilling to comply with Canada’s Online News Act

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Now that it’s a new year, some were hopeful to see Canadian news return to their Facebook and Instagram timelines, but the outlook is currently looking bleak. 

Bill C-18, otherwise known as the Online News Act was in the works for years, given royal assent in June and finally came into effect on December 19th, and Meta has refused to participate constructively in its implementation throughout this time. 

Specifically, the Online News Act targeted Meta and Google because they are the only tech giants that make over a billion dollars per year in Canada. These two companies alone earn approximately 80% of all online advertising revenue in Canada—averaging around $10 billion per year. 

The point of the Online News Act was to help support the struggling journalism sector across the country by having these billion dollar-generating companies contribute an objectively small amount towards the journalists and news organizations where their news is coming from. 

This is because a significant part of their fortunes stems from Canadians using their platforms as a way to find local, provincial, national and international news that they are interested in. 

Google has always been contributing to the conversation in some way—although they fundamentally did not want to give up any revenue—so they could attempt to make this legislation work for them as well as Canadian journalists. 

They predicted the passing of the Online News Act was inevitable and have since agreed to contribute $100 million per year, indexed to inflation, which will be evenly distributed based upon how many journalists work for an outlet.

Because Meta is smaller than Google, they would likely have to pay considerably lower than this amount.

According to the Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Meta has refused to cooperate from the get-go and has acted out of spite against Canadian news and its people ever since. 

“Facebook continues to make an unfortunate and reckless choice to block news on their platforms,” said Pascal St-Onge, Minister of Canadian Heritage. 

This is something Meta implemented five months before the Online News Act would be enforced in an attempt to strong-arm the Canadian government into repealing the legislation.

“Facebook is leaving disinformation and misinformation to spread on their platform, while choosing to block access to reliable, high-quality, independent journalism,” St-Onge continued.

“I invite Canadians to go directly to local news outlets and support Canadian journalists.”

Specifically, Meta’s blocking of Canadian news became extremely dangerous through the summer when BC was dealing with an unprecedented and record breaking wildfire season which saw over 40,000 British Columbians on evacuation order or alert at its peak.

During this time, misinformation about evacuations spread as quickly as the wildfires and many were left not knowing what they should be doing for their own safety. 

“Without fact-based news, they’re just leaving room for misinformation during emergencies like wildfires, local elections and other critical times for Canadians to make decisions. Canadians expect tech giants to pay their fair share for news,” St-Onge stated. 

As a way of protesting Meta’s blocking of Canadian Journalism, the Canadian government, most provincial governments, many municipalities and hundreds of influential companies such as BC Hydro have stopped spending their advertising budgets with Meta.

This will cost Meta many millions of dollars as they still refuse to comply withthe Online News Act. 


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Going forward, the $100 million contributed by Google for 2024 will be distributed to all qualifying news organizations who respond to their call to action—a mandatory 60-day period where news outlets can include themselves in Google’s payout.

The situation is now out of the government’s hands and will be handled by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), who are an independent regulator at arms-distance from the government. 

If and when Meta decides it is in their best interest to comply with the Online News Act or face repercussions and a lengthy, expensive arbitration process, they will have to go to the CRTC. 

However, there is no telling what Meta will do as they still refuse they are saying that the Online News Act should not apply to them. 

As another concerning wildfire season fast-approaches, those who advocate for the Online News Act have many concerns over safety and the spread of misinformation. 

“We are extremely concerned that Canadians won’t be able access or share vital information on social media at times when affected Canadians are checking in on loved ones, possibly evacuating again and we face evolving climate change-related crises,” Shane Mackenzie, spokesperson for the Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage. 

“Social media has become an incredible space for people to connect and share information. But these platforms are only successful because people use them and trust them.”

“The fact that Facebook would rather block people from reading and sharing news instead of paying their fair share for reliable news shows how deeply irresponsible and unreasonable they are,” he concluded. 

As people across BC and the rest of Canada dip their toes into 2024 hoping for the best, Meta remains unresponsive and unwavering in their stance, according to the Canadian government. 

Victoria Buzz reached out to Meta for comment, but received no response as of this publication.

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Curtis Blandy
curtis@victoriabuzz.com

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