Published August 1, 2023

All news in Canada will be removed from Facebook, Instagram within weeks: Meta

Meta was previously running a test that limited news for up to five per cent of its users
Local school board joins lawsuit against social media giants
image courtesy The Canadian Press

By Mickey Djuric in Ottawa

Discovering news articles and videos on Facebook and Instagram will soon become a relic of the past, as Meta announced it is officially ending news availability in Canada.

Meta said Tuesday that within a few weeks, it will remove news for all Canadian users of its popular Facebook and Instagram platforms. 

In June, the company started running a test that limited news for up to five per cent of users, but now it says it is moving out of the testing phase. 

"In order to provide clarity to the millions of Canadians and businesses who use our platforms, we are announcing today that we have begun the process of ending news availability permanently in Canada," said Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada. Curran previously served as a policy adviser for former prime minister Stephen Harper. 

That means Canadians will no longer be able to share or view news articles and other content posted by publishers and broadcasters, including international outlets.

News links to articles, reels — which are short-form videos — or stories, which are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours, are also expected to be affected by the block. 

People outside of Canada will not see a change. 

Paul Deegan, president of News Media Canada, said this "intemperate" action will harm user experience and devalue the Facebook platform. 

"Without access to real fact-based news created by real journalists, Facebook will become far less attractive to users and advertisers," Deegan said in a statement. "We expect more and more advertisers and their agencies will begin pulling advertising from the platform in response to this unilateral, undemocratic, and unreasonable move."

The federal government and some companies have already retaliated by ending advertising with Meta. 

Meta said it is defining news content based on how it's described in the Liberal government's Online News Act, which became law earlier this summer. 

It says the move to block news is a response to the bill, which requires tech giants to enter into agreements that compensate Canadian news outlets for content shared or otherwise repurposed on their platforms. 

"For many months, we have been transparent about our concerns with the Online News Act. It is based on the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, when the reverse is actually true," Curran said.

"News outlets voluntarily share content on Facebook and Instagram to expand their audiences and help their bottom line. In contrast, we know the people using our platforms don't come to us for news."

Ottawa has said the law creates a level playing field between online advertising giants and the shrinking news industry. 

The federal government has said that since 2008, close to 500 media outlets in 335 communities across Canada have closed, with more than 20,000 journalists losing their job, while Google and Meta continue to bring in billions in advertising dollars. 

"Google and Facebook earn 80 per cent of all digital advertising revenue in Canada. Meanwhile, hundreds of newsrooms have closed," said Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge in a statement. 

"A free and independent press is fundamental to our democracy, and Canadians expect tech giants to follow the law in our country."

In its own statement, CBC/Radio-Canada said Meta's move means people who have come to rely on the platforms for news are now "left with only unverified sources in their feeds."

The public broadcaster said the company's decision is "irresponsible and an abuse of their market power," adding that it and other Canadian media organizations are urging Meta to come to the negotiating table and compensate them for news content.

The Online News Act will come into effect by the end of the year, as the Liberal government develops regulations — a process Meta has said it is not interested in being a part of. 

"In the future, we hope the Canadian government will recognize the value we already provide the news industry and consider a policy response that upholds the principles of a free and open internet, champions diversity and innovation and reflects the interests of the entire Canadian media landscape," Curran said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 1, 2023. 

Banner image via The Canadian Press

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