Your latest questions about Bill C-18 and the blocking of Canadian news answered

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It’s August 2023. Do you know where your Canadian news is?

All Facebook and Instagram users in Canada won’t be able to access news on those platforms soon, after parent company Meta said it would shut out news in the country over the next few weeks.

The social media giant has been signalling the move since the Liberal government passed its Online News Act, Bill C-18, in June. Google may follow suit.

Many readers sent questions about the bill to our comments sections and inboxes. Here’s a sampling.

Why is this happening again?

It’s all part of a fight over the Online News Act, which became law in June.

The act says digital companies must pay news organizations when someone gets to a web story through a link on one of their products. 

The government says this sort of revenue sharing is needed to make sure Canadian news continues to exist, after most advertising moved to these online platforms and wiped out a major revenue stream for journalism.

Tech giants Google and Meta see the law as a tax on links that doesn’t recognize the web traffic the companies provide news outlets.

What will I notice as a user?

On Facebook and Instagram, Canadians will no longer be able to share or view news articles and other content posted by publishers and broadcasters, including international outlets.

News links to articles, reels — which are short-form videos — or stories, which are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours, are also expected to be affected by the block.

A screengrab from a cellphone of the Instagram App shows a white screen with a camera icon that has a line through it and the message: 'People in Canada can’t see this content. In response to Canadian government legislation, news content can’t be viewed in Canada.'
This screengrab taken Tuesday from the Instagram app displays a message explaining that people in Canada cannot see news content in response to the Canadian government’s legislation. (Alisha Parchment/CBC)

People outside of Canada will not see a change.

This will happen “over the course of the next few weeks,” Meta said Tuesday.

What news organizations are affected?

Meta says it will block news publishers and broadcasters in Canada and is identifying news outlets based on “legislative definitions and guidance from the Online News Act.”

The act lists several possible criteria, including:

  • Producing news content of “public interest”.
  • Regularly employing two or more journalists in Canada.
  • Operating in Canada, including having content edited and designed in Canada.
  • Belonging to a recognized journalistic association.

The CEO of Village Media, which runs 25 community news websites including Sudbury.com and Northern Ontario Business, has said Google and Meta pulling content from Canadian news outlets would “devastate” the industry.

Jeff Elgie, who says the Online News Act was flawed from the get-go, said about 50 per cent of the traffic to his company’s websites comes from Facebook and Google.

CBC News would also be blocked. The CBC’s corporate stance is in favour of the bill.

Meta has collaborated with a digital literacy expert on a guide to teach Canadians about other ways they can get news on the internet, such as going directly to publishers’ websites, downloading mobile news apps and subscribing to news alerts.

Will Google follow Meta’s lead?

Like Meta, Google has said they would remove news links in Canada before the law comes into effect by the end of the year. 

Unlike Meta, Google has had talks with the government in hopes of finding a solution.

Google’s president of global affairs said, “We plan to participate in the regulatory process and will continue to be transparent with Canadians and publishers as we move forward.”

Barring a deal, when the law goes into effect at the end of the year, Google says it will be removing links to Canadian news from search, news pages and its curated content feed, Google Discover.

The company has said the block will apply only to Canadian publishers. Canadian users will still be able to find news produced by international outlets such as the BBC, the New York Times and Fox News.

The company said it will also end Google News Showcase in Canada, a product it uses to license news from over 150 local publishers. Those existing deals will stay in place until the change happens.

What about YouTube? Threads?

Google’s parent company Alphabet also owns YouTube, but the video platform already allows users, including media outlets, to monetize their content. It’s also possible to embed a link back to a news article in the video itself and in the video description.

Meta’s new social networking service Threads “could be” regulated under the act as well, the now-former heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez said last month before the Liberals’ most recent cabinet shuffle.

What about emergency notifications?

Meta said it learned from the mistakes it made as it temporarily blocked online news from Facebook in Australia after the country passed a similar law in 2021 — and in doing so, accidentally limited access to emergency services pages.

Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada, told the House of Commons heritage committee earlier this year that the company “absolutely” wants to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen in Canada.

Curran said that would mean not applying any potential blocks to government pages, emergency services or community organizations.

Google has said it will continue its SOS Alerts on search and map results. The alerts are activated during natural disasters to help make emergency information easily accessible during a crisis.

 

 



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