In Canada, Meta Begins Blocking News on Facebook and Instagram

Meta, the company behind Facebook and Instagram, has started blocking news articles on its social networking services in Canada.

The change, in response to a new law in Canada that requires tech companies to pay news outlets for using their content, will roll out “over the course of the next few weeks,” Meta said in a blog post on Tuesday. Content posted on Facebook and Instagram by both local Canadian news outlets and international outlets will not be visible to Canadians using the platforms.

Canada passed the Online News Act in June, joining a push by numerous governments to force big social media companies to compensate news organizations. The Canadian bill requires the platforms and search engines to negotiate with news publishers to license their content.

Meta had previously signaled that it would block news access in response to the Canadian law. In a blog post, the company said the Online News Act “misrepresents the value news outlets receive when choosing to use our platforms.”

“The legislation is based on the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, when the reverse is true,” the blog post said, arguing that news outlets “voluntarily” share content to expand their audiences. Meta said it had generated traffic for publishers in a 12-month period to April 2022 that it valued at more than 230 million Canadian dollars.

Pascale St-Onge, the country’s minister for Canadian heritage, described Meta’s actions as “irresponsible.”

“They would rather block their users from accessing good quality and local news instead of paying their fair share to news organizations,” Ms. St-Onge said in a statement on Twitter.

Ms. St-Onge said the Canadian government would stand its ground with the new legislation.

“Facebook is trying to send a message, not only to Canada, but to other countries like New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States,” she said.

Google has also said it plans to remove links to local Canadian news content. In a June 29 blog post, Kent Walker, the company’s global affairs president, said the Online News Act was “unworkable” and exposed the company to “uncapped financial liability” by forcing it to pay for showing links to news reports.

Mr. Walker said Google had informed the Canadian government that it would remove news links as well as discontinue its Google News Showcase product when the law took effect.

The Canadian bill is modeled after a 2021 law passed in Australia, the first country to enact such legislation. At the time, Meta temporarily blocked sharing news links in Australia, before coming to a deal and lifting the ban.

California lawmakers have been considering a bill that would require the tech giants to pay for news, but said last month that it had been shelved for a year. Meta has pushed back forcefully against the bill, known as the California Journalism Preservation Act.

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