'A dangerous decision': Canadian news is disappearing from Instagram, Facebook – Yahoo News Canada

Canadians are no longer able to access news on social platforms Instagram and Facebook as tech giant Meta has followed through on their promise to block news on their platforms. While the ban officially went into effect on Aug. 1, it has been steadily rolled out across Canada over the past two weeks.

Meta signalled this move would be coming as a response to the federal government passing its Online News Act, Bill C-18, back in June.

Google followed suit shortly after by announcing they would be removing links to Canadian news from Canadian Search, News, and Discover products if an agreement with the Canadian government cannot be reached by the time obligations under the Online News Act come into force.

With the news blackout already in effect on Instagram, and Facebook soon to follow, news links and content posted by news publishers and broadcasters in Canada will no longer be viewable by people in Canada.

“In the future, we hope the Canadian government will recognize the value we already provide the news industry and consider a policy response that upholds the principles of a free and open internet,” Rachel Curran, Meta’s head of public policy in Canada, said in a statement.

How will the Meta ban impact Canadians?

Instead of being able to access news stories on Meta platforms, Canadians are now being greeted by a placeholder reading “People in Canada can’t see this content.”

Screenshot of Yahoo Canada Instagram after Meta news ban

Screenshot of Yahoo Canada Instagram after Meta news ban

News links to articles, reels — which are short-form videos — or stories, which are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours, have also been affected by the block.

Tech experts warn that this move will make it increasingly challenging for Canadians to determine if the news they are consuming on social media is from a factual source or misinformation.

Ahmed Al-Rawi, head of the Disinformation Project at Simon Fraser University says the inability to authenticate news provided by a verified news source could lead to an increase of fake news.

He says losing the ability to share credible news links will lead to an increase in the sharing of screenshots, which could be easily doctored using editing software or AI.

Police forces across Canada are also sounding the alarm on how the Meta ban will negatively impact the way they share information.

A spokesperson for the RCMP’s national headquarters told media that Facebook and Instagram have been utilized by the force as a means of sharing critical information with the public.

Unsure yet of just the extent the Meta ban will have on police operations, new ways of distributing public safety messages are currently being explored.

Unpacking Bill C-18

So what exactly is Canada’s Online News Act, also known as Bill C-18?

Introduced by the federal government in April 2022, Bill C-18 was announced as a means of forcing tech giants such as Meta and Google, to fairly compensate news publishers for posting content on their platforms.

It was introduced in an effort to support an industry that has struggled to stay afloat since the transition from print to digital news.

Data released by the Canadian government shows that over 450 news outlets have closed since 2008 with 60 of these closures occurring in the last two years alone.

“Journalists and newsrooms are not earning what they should from their work,” said Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez during his introduction of Bill C-18.

Some features included in bill are:

  • A new legislative and regulatory framework that would mitigate bargaining imbalances between digital platforms and news outlets over the way digital platforms allow news content to be accessed and shared on their platforms.

  • Digital platforms would have an opportunity to reach fair commercial deals with a wide range of news businesses outside the scope of the legislative framework before they are required to go to arbitration.

  • News businesses could be sure that negotiations with digital platforms would be fair and transparent through additional measures, such as a code of conduct and undue preference provisions.

Bill C-18 received Royal Assent on June 22, 2023 and obligations for tech giants in accordance with the act are expected to come into force within the next six months.

Meta claps back

In a statement shared online one year ago, the tech giant shared its concerns on the draft legislation issued by the Canadian government.

“We believe the Online News Act misrepresents the relationship between platforms and news publishers, and we call on the government to rethink its approach to help create a more fair and sustainable news industry in the long-term,” reads the statement.

Over the course of the past year, Meta says they have been transparent and made it clear to the Canadian government that the legislation misrepresents the value news outlets receive when choosing to use their platforms.

“The only way we can reasonably comply with this legislation is to end news availability for people in Canada,” the statement goes on to say.

What now?

Multiple Canadian media outlets have come together and are urging the Competition Bureau to do something about Meta blocking news content.

People in Canada can continue to access news online by going directly to news publishers’ websites, downloading mobile news apps, and subscribing to their preferred publishers,” Meta reassures in their statement.

Public response

Canadians are reacting strongly to Meta’s decision to ban news on its platforms, however many of the reactions point to generalized confusion to the implications of the ban.

Several posts seem to suggest that the ban only applies to certain leanings within the Canadian media landscape. One social user was quick to point out that this ban applies to all Canadian news companies.

Another user, who seems to be unfazed by the ban, tells other users that “If its not worth your time to go directly to the information, how valuable is it?”

One user expressed concern over if Meta announced a news ban, how likely is it that perhaps other platforms may follow suit?

Other users remain hopeful that this may only be a temporary halt as negotiations between tech giants and the Canadian government are taking place.

One user is going so far as to call Meta’s ban a “dangerous decision.”

Some social media users suggest alternative means of accessing Canadian news.

The occasional post shares a supportive perspective of the Meta ban.

To stay up to date on the latest Canadian news, follow @YahooCanadaNews on Twitter, @yahoonewscanada on TikTok or head over to our website here.


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