Facebook and Instagram users in Canada will notice a significant change in their feeds as Meta, the parent company of these platforms, begins blocking access to links and stories from news publishers. This move is a response to the recently passed Canadian Online News Act, which aims to address the declining news industry by forcing tech platforms to negotiate fair revenue sharing with publishers for their content. When negotiations fail, the law allows for mandatory arbitration, putting tech companies in a difficult position.
Meta’s policy communications director, Andy Stone, expressed their disagreement with the law on Twitter, stating that it is based on a flawed premise. Consequently, the only way Meta can comply is by ending news availability in Canada, and this process will be rolled out gradually over the next few weeks.
Google also plans to follow suit by implementing a news blackout in its search results in response to the same law.
For over a decade, tech platforms have benefited from publishers’ original content without compensating them, leading to a decline in the news industry. Despite some attempts to fund news initiatives, Meta has now taken an adversarial stance and distanced itself from the news content. They argue that news has little economic value for them, which has sparked criticism given the significant engagement news and political content generate on their platforms.
Critics of the Canadian Online News Act point out that the news industry is already heavily reliant on social networks, and this legislation might deepen their dependence, necessitating new and more sustainable solutions. Additionally, some argue that the forced negotiation frameworks could favor large media groups over smaller, independent publishers.
While controversial, these laws could pave the way for future regulations worldwide, with California also considering a proposal to make social platforms pay for content, on hold until 2024. As the situation unfolds in Canada, it will likely be a significant indicator of how such laws impact the relationships between social platforms and news publishers.