Meta to end access to news on Facebook and Instagram in Canada

Parliament passes bill to compel payment from internet companies serving news online

The act is similar to a groundbreaking law passed in Australia in 2021. PA
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Meta Platforms said on Thursday it would end access to news on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada after parliament approved legislation designed to compel internet companies to pay publishers for news.

The legislation, known as the Online News Act, was approved by the Senate earlier on Thursday and is expected to be formally adopted shortly.

“Today, we are confirming that news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada before the Online News Act taking effect,” Meta said in a statement.

The act outlines rules to force platforms such as Facebook and Alphabet's Google to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers for their content, a step similar to a groundbreaking law passed in Australia in 2021.

US technology companies have said the proposals are unsustainable for their businesses. Google has said Canada's law is more stringent than those enacted in Australia and Europe, and proposed amendments to resolve concerns.

Canada's federal government has so far pushed back against suggestions to make changes. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Meta and Google were using “bullying tactics” as they campaigned against the legislation.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who introduced the bill last year, said on Thursday that the government “will engage in a regulatory and implementation process” after the legislation comes into effect.

“If the government can't stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?” Mr Rodriguez said in a statement.

Shay Purdy, a Google representative, said the search engine has “proposed thoughtful and pragmatic solutions”, but the bill remains “unworkable”.

“We are continuing to urgently seek to work with the government on a path forward,” Mr Purdy said.

The Heritage Ministry has had meetings with Facebook and Google this week, and it looks forward to further discussions, a government representative said.

Google confirmed that senior company executives were scheduled to meet Mr Rodriguez later on Thursday.

The legislation was proposed after complaints from Canada's media industry, which wants tighter regulation of tech companies to prevent them from elbowing news businesses out of the online advertising market.

“The Canadian Parliament should be applauded for standing up to Big Tech by requiring them to compensate news publishers for use of their articles,” Danielle Coffey, president of the News Media Alliance global industry group, said in response to the bill's approval in the Senate.

“We are encouraged by the increasing recognition of the need for legal action to ensure just compensation, both in Canada and abroad, and hope to see the United States follow suit.”

Updated: June 22, 2023, 10:13 PM