Meta News Censorship Trend: Facebook to Block News for Some Users in Canada

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Will Young

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is escalating its battle with the Canadian government over a proposed bill that would require online platforms to pay publishers and broadcasters for hosting their content. In response to the impending legislation, Meta announced that it will conduct tests on its platforms to limit news access for a small percentage of users in Canada.

This move serves as a demonstration of power and an attempt to dissuade the government from passing the Online News Act. As tensions rise, Meta’s decision follows a similar move made by Google earlier this year, and takes place parallel a similar situation in California. Let’s delve into the details of this ongoing clash between tech giants and regulators.

The Canadian government is pushing for the passage of the Online News Act, which would mandate big tech companies to negotiate deals with Canadian media publishers and broadcasters. If an agreement cannot be reached, mandatory arbitration would be imposed. In response, Meta has initiated tests on its platforms to limit the viewing, posting, and sharing of news content for a select group of Canadian users. This action is aimed at preparing for the possibility of blocking news altogether once the bill is passed.

Meta’s decision has drawn criticism from the Canadian government, with the Minister for Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, expressing disappointment and condemning the company’s refusal to work with Canadians. He emphasized that Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics. Earlier this year, Google also temporarily disabled news on its search engine for a small portion of Canadian users, leading Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to label it a “terrible mistake.”

This is not the first time Meta has taken such measures in response to news-related regulations. In 2021, the company faced backlash for temporarily blocking news content in Australia, which included pages of government health organizations and emergency services. The Canadian bill aims to address the power imbalance between big tech companies and the shrinking digital media industry, giving smaller local news players more leverage. However, Meta argues that its apps drive engagement to news publishers and claims to have sent over 1.9 billion clicks to news publishers via the Facebook feed, providing “free marketing” worth over $230 million.

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Meta has proposed amendments to the bill, including excluding the sharing of hyperlinks from its scope. As hyperlinks account for a significant portion of news posted on Meta, such an amendment would dilute the legislation’s impact. Critics argue that this move could severely undermine the bill, making it less effective and balanced. Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, warns that any news blackout could adversely affect Meta’s advertising business and raise concerns about information integrity and the credibility of user-generated content.

As Meta takes a stand against the Online News Act in Canada, the battle between tech giants and regulators intensifies. Meta’s decision to limit news access for some Canadian users is a show of power aimed at dissuading the government from passing the bill. However, it has been met with criticism and disappointment from the Canadian government, which remains committed to addressing the power dynamics in the digital media industry. As the clash continues, the implications for news publishers, advertisers, and the information ecosystem at large remain uncertain.

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