Ottawa has said the law creates a level playing field between online advertising giants and the shrinking news industry. And Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has promised to push back on what he describes as “threats” from Facebook and Google to remove journalism from their platforms.
Meta confirmed Thursday that it plans to comply with the bill by ending news availability on Facebook and Instagram for its Canadian users, as it had previously suggested. Meta would not offer details about the timeline for that move, but said it will pull local news from its site before the Online News Act takes effect. The bill will come into force six months after it receives royal assent.
“We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18, which was 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,” said Lisa Laventure, head of communications for Meta in Canada.
Legacy media and broadcasters have praised the bill, which promises to “enhance fairness” in the digital news marketplace and help bring in more money for shrinking newsrooms. Tech giants including Meta and Google have been blamed in the past for disrupting and dominating the advertising industry, eclipsing smaller, traditional players.
Meta, which is based in Menlo Park, California, has taken similar steps in the past. In 2021, it briefly blocked news from its platform in Australia after the country passed legislation that would compel tech companies to pay publishers for using their news stories. It later struck deals with Australian publishers.
Laura Scaffidi, a spokesperson for the minister, said Rodriguez was set to have a meeting Thursday afternoon with Google, which has hinted that removing news links from its popular search engine is a possibility. The company didn’t provide comment on the matter.
Meta is already undergoing a test that blocks news for up to five percent of its Canadian users, and Google ran a similar test earlier this year.
The Online News Act requires both companies to enter into agreements with news publishers to pay them for news content that appears on their sites if it helps the tech giants generate money.
“The tech giants do not have obligations under the act immediately after Bill C-18 passes. As part of this process, all details will be made public before any tech giant is designated under the act,” said Scaffidi.