Facebook, Instagram to block news in Canada after bill passed

The move comes after Ottawa passed a new bill requiring digital giants to pay for news content.

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[Esra Hacioglu Karakaya/Anadolu Agency]

Facebook and Instagram users in Canada will be blocked from viewing Canadian news after the country passed a bill requiring digital giants to pay for such content.

The new law requires digital giants to make fair commercial deals with Canadian outlets for news and information that is shared on their platforms or face binding arbitration.

It builds on Australia’s New Media Bargaining Code, a world’s first, aimed at making Google and Meta pay for news content on their platforms.

Australia, too, had accused the two companies, who dominate online advertising, of draining cash away from traditional news organisations while using their content for free.

Google, another critic of the Online News Act, has previously said it is considering a similar move.

The two Silicon Valley giants have pushed back against the bill, which aims to support a struggling Canadian news sector that has seen hundreds of publications closed in the last decade.

“Exciting news! (No pun intended),” Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez tweeted after the bill passed a final hurdle in the Senate on its way to becoming law.

He said Meta’s decision to block news content was regrettable, but vowed to “stand up for Canadians against tech giants”.

His office said officials had a meeting with Facebook and Google this week and looked forward to further discussions about the new law.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau slammed Meta for a trial run of blocking Canadian news content for some users.

Opposition to the bill, he said, was “flawed [and] dangerous to our democracy, to our economy”.

Google in February had also temporarily limited access to news for Canadian users of its popular search engine.

In a statement on Thursday, Meta said it was “confirming that news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada”.

“The changes affecting news content will not otherwise impact Meta’s products and services in Canada,” it added.

Google spokesperson Jenn Crider said it is “doing everything we can to avoid an outcome that no-one wants” and is seeking to work with the government “on a path forward”.

The company has proposed amendments to the bill, but Crider said on Thursday: “So far, none of our concerns have been addressed.”

Source: AFP