Meta to start blocking news content for up to 5% of Canadian Facebook, Instagram users

by Lindsey Francy Jun 2, 2023 News
Meta to start blocking news content for up to 5% of Canadian Facebook, Instagram users

Some Canadians will soon be blocked from accessing or posting news content on either of the social media platforms.

Bill C-18, the Online News Act, is the reason for the move by the social media giant.

If the bill becomes law, Facebook will have to block news content from its platforms in Canada, something that could happen as soon as this month.

Tech giants would have to pay Canadian media companies for using their content online.

"As we prepare to comply with the legislation, we will begin tests on both platforms that will limit some users and publishers from viewing or sharing some news content in Canada."

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The test will include between one and five per cent of the 24 million Canadians who use the two social media sites.

Rachel Curran is the head of public policy for Meta Canada.

She said that the experience wouldn't be a uniform one. On different surfaces, it will be different.

A small percentage of people in Canada who enroll in testing will be notified if they try to share news content.

The test shows that a user wouldn't see links to articles in their feed. A person would not be able to share such content with others.

News publishers will be able to post links to their stories, but some of them will not be seen in Canada.

WATCH | Why Facebook is threatening to block news in Canada:Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, says it will block Canadians’ access to news content on its platforms if the federal government’s proposed online news legislation passes in its current form.

Users who will be included in the test will only be made aware that they're included if they try to share the news, at which point they'll see a notification that they're unable to.

International publishers that operate in Canada will be included in the number of news publishers who will have their content included in the test. If they have been included in the test, the publishers will be notified.

News industry decries move

The head of News Media Canada called Meta's move a "kick in the shins" to Canadians at a time when the value and need for credible information has never been greater.

"Meta's decision to 'unfriend' Canada by denying access to trusted sources of news for some of their users is irresponsible and tone deafness," Deegan said in an email.

The Online News Act needs to be passed before the summer recess because of the power disparity between platforms and publishers.

Meta's move comes on the heels of a similar move by Google earlier this year when it blocked news results for more than a million Canadians in opposition to the bill

Bill C-18 ignores the realities of how our platforms work, the preferences of the people who use them, and the value we give news publishers, according to Meta.

The company objects to being asked to compensate news publishers for their content when they have given news publishers more than 1.9 million clicks in Canada in the past year, and free marketing worth more than $230 million.

"We will be forced to compensate news publishers for material that they post to drive traffic and drive clicks back to their page and websites where they can monetize those views and eyeballs either through a paywall or they can place ads against the views that show up on their web page." They want us to compensate them for an activity that benefits them from a monetary point of view.

Government calls move 'disappointing'

The minister said Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.

The bill promises to improve fairness in the digital news marketplace and help bring in more money for newsrooms. The advertising industry has been blamed in the past for being dominated by tech giants.

Similar steps have been taken in the past by Meta. After Australia passed legislation that would force tech companies to pay for the use of their news stories, it briefly blocked news from its platform. Deals were struck with Australian publishers.

Meta reached a deal with publishers in the U.K.

Accountable Tech, a U.S.-based advocacy group pushing for more regulation of technology companies in that country, says the news blackouts in various countries show the lengths that big tech companies will go to in order to sway governments.

Nicole Gill, the group's executive director, said that Big Tech's willingness to cripple democracy by withholding news content to a population is a bargaining chip to stop legislation.

Meta doesn't want to act in good faith or improve the lives of its users or the communities it operates in. There is no reason for the U.S. to take a break from reining them in.