Canadian Publishers Urge Action Against Meta’s News Access Restrictions

A consortium of Canadian news publishers and broadcasters is calling upon the country’s competition regulator to intervene in the ongoing dispute between Meta and the Canadian government. The conflict revolves around issues of revenue sharing and content accessibility, with News Media Canada, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, and CBC/Radio‐Canada jointly expressing concerns about Meta’s decision to block news access for Canadian users on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. This move, they contend, constitutes “anticompetitive conduct” and runs afoul of federal law.

Earlier this year, the Canadian federal government passed Bill C-18, known as the Online News Act, with the intention of bolstering the revenues of Canadian journalism outlets. The law mandates that companies like Meta and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, compensate publishers for hosting and linking to their content. However, both companies have pushed back against these new regulations, citing the associated costs. Meta, in particular, has taken a firm stance against the law, labeling it “unworkable” and issuing a warning that it would restrict access to news content on its platforms for Canadian users. This threat materialized on August 8th when Meta fully implemented the block.

Google, on the other hand, had previously issued a warning that it might remove certain links from search results, but as of now, it has not yet taken this step.

Meta’s decision to restrict news access affects not only Canadian content but also news from reputable international outlets like The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

Meta has contended that the basis of the Online News Act is flawed, asserting that news outlets voluntarily share their content on Facebook and Instagram to expand their reach and improve their financial performance. According to Meta’s statement, “The Online News Act has based on the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms when the reverse is true.”

Experts in the media industry have voiced concerns that Meta’s actions could inadvertently pave the way for the proliferation of fake news and disinformation by blocking access to established news sources.

The group of publishers expressed their apprehensions, pointing out that Meta’s approach to blocking access is not unique to Canada and has been observed on a global scale. They warned, “If Meta is allowed to proceed unchecked, it could inflict significant damage to Canadian news organization’s ability to offer quality news services to Canadians, which is critical to the functioning of a free and democratic society.”

The dispute between Meta, Canadian news publishers, and the government underscores the complex interplay between technology giants, legislation, and the flow of credible information in the digital age.