Oh, Canada! Meta Pledges to Remove News Content in Response to New Law

The Online News Act requires that digital platforms pay news outlets for content in Canada

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Meta Platforms said it will remove news content from Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada after the country passed a law that is designed to force search engines and social media to share revenue with publishers for news stories.

Any companies that remove news from their sites would be exempt from the legislation, called the Online News Act, or Bill C-18, the National Post reported. It does not specifically name any companies, but applies to any companies that “make news content available,” and have a “significant bargaining power imbalance” with news businesses.

Meta tested a program earlier this month that blocked roughly 5% of Canadian users from accessing news content on Facebook and Instagram, and threatened to make it permanent if the Online News Act passed.

Thursday night, the company said it would make that threat a reality.

“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 (Bill C-18) taking effect,” the company said in a blog post. “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 post said the tests started earlier in the month are ongoing, and currently impact a small percentage of Canadians.

The bill received “royal assent,” on Thursday, a key step before it could take affect. The nation’s Department of Canadian Heritage will now draft regulations detailing how the act will be implemented and enforced, the CBC reported, stating it should take six months for it to come into force.

“We will end news availability for all users in Canada prior to the bill taking effect,” a Meta spokesman told TheWrap early Friday.

It’s not clear whether Google would also remove news from its feeds, the National Post reported. But the Wall Street Journal said the Alphabet-owned search engine “also has signaled possible restrictions of news content” in Canada. The country’s heritage minister, Pablo Rodriguez, was holding last-minute talks with Google Thursday afternoon, it said.

Google representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company previously warned it could cut or end existing deals with Canadian news organizations in its Google News Showcase program, which includes 150 outlets in the U.S.’s northern neighbor.

Rodriguez and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have both previously said Google and Facebook’s statements that they will take all news down from their platforms if the bill passed were threats that won’t work.

“The fact that these internet giants would rather cut off Canadians’ access to local news than pay their fair share is a real problem, and now they’re resorting to bullying tactics to try and get their way. It’s not going to work,” Trudeau said earlier this month when Meta announced its “test.”

“A free and independent press is fundamental to our democracy,” Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement following the bill’s passage, the CBC reported. “It levels the playing field by putting the power of big tech in check and ensuring that even our smallest news business can benefit through this regime and receive fair compensation for their work.”