Bill C-18 Passes Senate, Meta Announces Suspension of News Services on its Platforms in Response
On Thursday, Bill C-18, titled the Online News Act, passed the final vote in the Senate and has now received Royal Assent. The Bill, among other things, would require that social media companies pay a gratuity when users post links to news content on their sites. That gratuity would be paid to the news organization whose story was being shared.
Bill C-18 Update
Meta and Google have pushed back, saying that the bill is poorly written, and that the bill would require them to pay out to news organizations without any real vetting process to determine which were real news sites and which were not. Both companies have run “tests” wherein they have blocked subsets of Canadian users from accessing news content through their platforms, and Meta says their tests are still ongoing.
Both Meta and Google have stated that News content does not contribute to a significant portion of their revenue streams, and that it is more economically viable for them just to block the posting of news content altogether, rather than paying news companies for linking to their content. As such, Meta announced Thursday immediately following the Bill’s passage through the Senate, that it would begin shutting down the linking of news content on its sites (Facebook and Instagram) before the Bill even received Royal Assent, in order to save its money.
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez reiterated the government’s combative tone on the matter, saying that the government would not be “bullied” by tech giants. He went on to say that if Meta or Google had issues with the Bill, they “have his phone number”. Meta and Google spokespeople stated that they “came to the government with reasonable and pragmatic solutions” but were rebuffed.
The move is not without context. Australia also recently experimented with requiring social media companies to pay news producers. Meta staged a similar move in that country, before reversing course and backing down, In Canada though, they don’t appear to be have any plans to do so, supposedly due to the government’s inflexibility on the matter.
Meta has since restated that it will continue with its plan to block news content, and as such in the coming months, expect your Facebook and Instagram feeds to be devoid of news stories. Google has not yet reiterated its position, and it is not clear if they intend to follow Meta’s lead on the matter.