Meta will block access to news articles for all Facebook and Instagram users in Canada after the country passed a new law, the Online News Act, which would force internet companies to pay news publishers for their content.
After months of protest from Meta, Canada followed the lead of Australia and passed its Online News Act in parliament Thursday, enacting legislation that will require platforms like Meta and Google parent company Alphabet to negotiate compensation deals with news publishers if the platforms want to post or link to their work.
Meta said in a statement the bill was “fundamentally flawed legislation,” and that it was making the move to block content from publishers and broadcasters in order to comply with the bill.
Meta has not said whether it will reconsider allowing news in the future; when a similar law was passed in Australia in 2021, the company initially said it would block news stories before later reaching agreements with publishers.
Under the new law, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission would be responsible for mediation if publishers and platforms cannot reach an agreement.
Members of parliament, such as Chris Bittle, have said the bill would be an important means of providing the press with revenue at a time when increasingly more news outlets are going out of business. Bittle added crucial advertising dollars have left Canadian media to be largely swooped up by Meta and Google, eluding the press.
Deals between tech platforms and news publishers may be coming to California. A similar bill in the form of the California Journalism Preservation Act made its way through the state assembly earlier this month and awaits a Senate vote. Like it did in Canada, Meta has said it will block news articles on Facebook in California if the bill becomes law.
Meta’s move to block news articles for Instagram and Facebook users in Canada does not come as a surprise. Before the bill passed, Meta and Google both said they would eliminate access to news content in Canada if it went through. Google vice president of news Richard Gingras said in testimony to a Senate committee that the company would have to remove links to news articles found within Canadian search results. Canada’s new law is very similar to one passed in Australia in 2021 that gave the country’s government the power to make companies like Meta and Google negotiate compensatory deals for news businesses. A government report released in 2022 found that the law had largely worked out, with tech companies and news outlets agreeing to more than 30 deals. Meta initially said it would block news following the law’s passage, but eventually reached an agreement with the Australian government that reversed their decision. Google signed deals representing 200 outlets that were primarily regional or local, according to a company executive interviewed by Reuters.