Canada has passed the Online News Act, reminiscent of groundbreaking Australian legislation from 2021 that saw Facebook restrict news content down under.
Meta has said it is planning to end access to news on Facebook and Instagram in Canada after the country’s Online News Act received Royal Assent by the governor general yesterday (22 June).
“Today, we are confirming that news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada prior to the Online News Act taking effect,” Meta wrote in a statement.
According to the Canadian government, the act, also known as Bill C-18, “will require the largest digital platforms to bargain fairly with Canadian news businesses for the use of their news content on their services”.
“This enactment regulates digital news intermediaries to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace and contribute to its sustainability.”
The act establishes a framework for collective bargaining by news outlets, aims to ensure fair revenue sharing between digital platforms and news outlets and promotes voluntary commercial agreements between digital platforms and news outlets. In the event of a failure of digital platforms and news outlets to reach commercial agreements, the act establishes a mandatory arbitration framework.
The government will now publish draft regulations providing guidance on the implementation of the act and there will be a consultation process. It is expected to take six months before the act comes into force.
The legislation follows complaints from Canada’s media industry wanting tighter regulation of tech companies to prevent them from pushing out news businesses from the online ad market.
Meta said it has long warned that this would be the outcome if Canada passed the Online News Act.
“We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18, passed today in Parliament, content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada,” the company wrote in a statement.
To comply with the law, Meta has been conducting product tests – currently impacting “a small percentage” of users in Canada – that will allow for its platforms to end news availability.
However, the company noted that changes affecting news content “will not otherwise impact Meta’s products and services in Canada”.
“We want to assure the millions of Canadians on our platforms that they will always be able to connect with friends and family, grow their businesses and support their local communities,” Meta said.
A similar groundbreaking law was passed in Australia two years ago, which saw Meta – then Facebook – block content from Australian news media from appearing on its platform overnight.
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