Meta moves to cut Canadian news from Facebook

By: Rob Corbidge, 02 August 2023

megaphone, dozens of red Canadian maple leaves, classical art

Meta makes true on its promise to respond to Ottawa's cash-for-content law by withdrawing news from Canadian users' feeds

Meta has gone ahead on its threat to block access to news links on both Facebook and Instagram for the platforms' Canadian users.

Describing the move as "changes",  Meta spokesman Andy Stone on Tuesday said the process of blocking news links will roll out over a few weeks. "As we’ve always said, the law is based on a fundamentally flawed premise. And, regrettably, the only way we can reasonably comply is to end news availability in Canada," he said.

CBC, the Canadian state broadcaster, said Meta was being "irresponsible" and said that it was "an abuse of their market power".  

Both Meta and Google have been particularly harsh in their response to Canadian legislation, called the Online News Act, passed by the country's Parliament in June that forces the large digital platforms to pay media outlets for links.

It is felt by many observers than due to Canada's proximity and cultural and political links to the US, the big platforms fear that the Canadian legislation will pave the ground for similar laws to be passed in the United States. 

Google has stated that search for Canadian users will have links to Canadian news articles removed when the cash-for-content legislation is actually active, which is expected to occur later this year, pending some regulations being finalised.

“We have been transparent and have made it clear to the Canadian government that the legislation misrepresents the value news outlets receive when choosing to use our platforms,” Meta said in a statement.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stood squarely behind the legislation in the recent past, saying: "They made the wrong choice by deciding to attack Canada,” in July. "Canadians will not be bullied by billionaires in the US." 

The large platforms have been relentless in talking down the value of news as a traffic driver for them, and the gambit is clearly that the platforms hold all the commercial cards. We're about to find out whether users value the "three per cent" of content Meta says news makes up on users' feeds.