Meta Moves to Block News on Facebook and Instagram for Some Canadians

The company is testing a program it threatens to make permanent if Canada enacts a law regulating how news is shared on social media  

Meta campus
Getty Images

Meta is set to temporarily block up to 5% of its Canadian users from accessing news content on Facebook and Instagram, Meta Canada’s head of public policy Rachel Curran told the Canadian Press Thursday. 

The blocks, which the company says will last through the month of June, are the test version of a program Meta is threatening to make permanent if Canadian Bill C-18, known as the Online News Act, becomes law.

The act would require large tech companies like Meta to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online. It’s similar to a proposed California law, the “Journalism Preservation Act,” that has also prompted threats of a total news block from Meta.

Under the test, roughly 1.2 million Canadian Facebook and Instagram users may be randomly selected to lose access to news links, reels and stories. Publications outside of Canada, including the New York Times and BBC, could also be blocked during the test should they be randomly selected. 

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez called Meta’s move an intimidation tactic, deeming it “disappointing,” though he said it will not sway lawmakers.

“The fact that Facebook still refuses to work with Canadians shows how irresponsible and out of touch they are,” Rodriguez wrote in French. “Again, this is disappointing from the web giants and Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.”

In a statement to the Canadian Press Thursday, Rodriguez added, “When a big tech company, whatever the size is, the amount of money and the powerful lawyers they have, they come here and they tell us, ‘If you don’t do this or that, then I’m pulling the plug,’ — that’s a threat and that is unacceptable.” 

Google conducted a similar test on 4% of Canadian users in February, citing the same bill, per the Associated Press.

Meta also blocked news on its platform in Australia for a week back in 2021, before eventually reaching a deal with publishers.