Meta has this week announced its to begin restricting news on Facebook and Instagram following parliament-approved legislation that will require it to pay news publishers.
The controversial bill, called The Online News Act, cleared the senate on Thursday, although Meta has already tested limiting access to some Canadians.
While the law doesn’t prevent news from being published on the platforms, it will require them to negotiate commercial deals and obtain a license for the content. The technology giant’s response has been to drop news from the platform.
The Law is Considered “Fundamentally Flawed”
While the law isn’t exclusive to Meta, the technology giant is speaking up the loudest, stating it is “fundamentally flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work”. Google similarly called the bill “unworkable” in its current form.
“A legislative framework that compels us to pay for links or content that we do not post, and which are not the reason the vast majority of people use our platforms, is neither sustainable nor workable,” a Meta spokesperson
While this argument rings true, the bill has been designed to “enhance fairness” and ensure the digital news marketplace’s sustainability, according to the bill itself. In recent times, concerns have been raised that tech companies have been cornering the market for online advertising, and taking away much-needed revenue from news sites.
An independent parliament budget watchdog analyzed the bill and estimated that news outlets could receive around $329 million – roughly $250 million in US dollars – per year from digital platforms.
Meta confirmed these changes won’t impact any other services for Canadian users.
The Legislation isn't the First of its Kind
Australian users were blocked from sharing or viewing news on Facebook thanks to a similar law, back in 2021. However, after talks with the government and amendments in the legislation, Facebook restored its news content.
So while tech giants may hold out hope that something similar will happen for Canada, avid supporters of the bill seem less likely to want to enter any potential future negotiations. Canadian politicians have been heavy on praise for this step which has been seen as a move towards market fairness.
“If the government can't stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?” – Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez
However, law professor at the University of Ottawa Michael Geist, has warned that this move could be detrimental to independent media outlets who may not experience the same reach without social virality.
The Online News Act is expected to take effect in Canada in six months.