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Meta to stop news access on its platforms in Canada if Online News Act becomes law

Meta Canada

Those in Canada will no longer be able to access news on Facebook and Instagram if the federal government's proposed Online News Act passes in its current form, technology company Meta said on Saturday.

Also known as "House of Commons bill C-18," the Online News Act was introduced in April of last year. It laid out rules to compel companies like Meta and Google to negotiate commercial deals and compensate news publishers for their content.

CTV News says that large Canadian media firms and the federal Liberal government have supported the bill. This is because they believe it would level the playing field for news outlets competing with tech companies for advertising dollars.

However, according to a statement by Meta spokesperson Lisa Laventure, the bill would place the company in an untenable position. "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," she wrote in an email.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez responded to this in a statement on Sunday, saying that it was disappointing to see Facebook resorting to threats instead of working with the Canadian government in good faith. He added that the C-18 bill had nothing to do with how Meta makes news available to Canadians. "All we're asking Facebook to do is negotiate fair deals with news outlets when they profit from their work," Rodriguez said. "This is part of a disappointing trend this week that tech giants would rather pull news than pay their fair share."

In response to the bill, Google also recently conducted a five-week test that limited access to news for some Canadian users. The test is set to end on March 16. According to Sabrina Geremia, the head of Google Canada, the proposed legislation would "radically change" the framework Google uses to host free news links.

"The bill is a moving target, with key questions left unanswered," she stated. "We don't know if we will be able to continue to link to news as we do today, so we are testing potential changes to the way we currently freely link to news under that framework."

About two years ago, Meta (previously Facebook) removed the ability to view and share news content on Facebook and Instagram after the Australian government forced the company to pay publishers for using their news articles. After a week, Meta unblocked news on its platforms after reaching an agreement with the government.

Source: CTV News, Reuters

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