Montreal, Canada – Journalist and public relations federations in the Canadian province of Quebec are calling on the public to join a one-day boycott of Meta-owned social media platforms over the company’s ban on news-sharing in Canada.
The Federation of Professional Journalists of Quebec said Friday’s so-called “Day without Meta” – coinciding with International Day of Democracy – aimed to send a message that “Quebec will not let itself be intimidated and will continue to support local media and journalists”.
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“By blocking news, Meta is not allowing citizens to access credible information and that greatly concerns us,” Patrick Howe, president of the Quebec Society of Public Relations Professionals, said in a statement last week.
Meta – the owner of Facebook and Instagram – imposed a news blackout in Canada on August 1 over a new law that would have required the company to pay Canadian media outlets for content shared on its platforms.
— Canadian Association of Journalists (@caj) September 15, 2023
The government has said the Online News Act aims to help a struggling Canadian media industry that has faced mass layoffs in recent years while making social media giants pay their fair share.
But Meta and Google, which is also expected to be affected by the legislation but has yet to block news on its search and other platforms in Canada, have denounced the measure.
Meta’s position has sparked widespread backlash, particularly after it maintained its news block as Canadians were seeking reliable information online during massive wildfires in parts of the Northwest Territories and British Columbia last month.
“Facebook is putting corporate profits ahead of people’s safety,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on August 21, calling the company’s conduct “inconceivable”.
In early September, Ottawa put forward draft regulations that it said aimed to give companies ways to satisfy the law without government intervention.
The proposal would raise 172 million Canadian dollars ($126.6m) per year from Google and about 60 million Canadian dollars ($44m) per year from Facebook, a Canadian official told reporters, as reported by the Reuters news agency at the time.
However, Meta quickly said the draft rules did not address its concerns – and its block has remained in place.
“Meta clearly has the means to do its part, but insists on playing by its own rules, which is unacceptable,” Michael Nguyen, president of the Federation of Professional Journalists of Quebec, said in last week’s statement.
The Canadian Association of Journalists, major Quebec media conglomerate Quebecor, as well as unions, municipalities, and chambers of commerce in the French-speaking province signed on to Friday’s “Day without Meta”.
The groups have asked Canadians to avoid posting on Facebook and Instagram for the day. They also urged people to subscribe to a local media outlet instead.