Meta starts blocking news in Canada over law on paying publishers

REUTERS/Peter DaSilva/File Photo
Morning commute traffic streams past the Meta sign outside the headquarters of Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc in Mountain View, California, U.S. November 9, 2022.

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Meta Platforms META.O has begun the process to end access to news on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada, it said on Tuesday, in response to law requiring internet giants to pay news publishers.

The Canadian government quickly denounced the move as “irresponsible,” and said the world is watching the process play out in Canada.

The Online News Act, passed by the Canadian parliament, would force platforms like Google parent Alphabet GOOGL.O and Meta to negotiate commercial deals with Canadian news publishers for their content.

“News outlets voluntarily share content on Facebook and Instagram to expand their audiences and help their bottom line,” Rachel Curran, Meta’s head of public policy in Canada, said. “In contrast, we know the people using our platforms don’t come to us for news.”

Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge, who is in charge of the government’s dealings with Meta, said in a Tuesday statement: “This is irresponsible.”

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

“We’re going to keep standing our ground. After all, if the Government can’t stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?” she added.

In a campaign against the law, which is part of a broader global trend to make tech firms pay for news, both Meta and Google said in June they would block access to news on their platforms in the country.

Canada’s public broadcast CBC also called Meta’s move irresponsible and that it was “an abuse of their market power.”

The Canadian law is similar to a ground-breaking law that Australia passed in 2021 and had triggered threats from Google and Facebook to curtail their services.

Both the companies eventually struck deals with Australian media firms after amendments to the legislation were offered.

But on the Canadian law, Google has argued that it is broader than those enacted in Australia and Europe as it puts a price on news story links displayed in search results and can apply to outlets that do not produce news.

Meta had said links to news articles make up less than 3% of the content on its users’ feed and argued that news lacked economic value.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said in May that such an argument was flawed and “dangerous to our democracy, to our economy.”