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Facebook and Instagram Under Fire: Blocking News in Canada Amidst Bill C-18 Controversy
JUN 2, 2023  (11:16)

Facebook and Instagram Under Fire: Blocking News in Canada Amidst Bill C-18 Controversy

Tech giant Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, plans to conduct tests that will restrict the sharing and posting of news content for selected Canadian users on its platforms. These tests are in preparation for the potential passing of Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, which Meta opposes.

The bill aims to create a more balanced relationship between digital platforms and news outlets by requiring giants like Meta and Google to enter into agreements with Canadian media publishers for sharing and directing users to online news.

Similar to Google's earlier test, which filtered out Canadian and international news content, Meta's tests will randomly select and enroll one to five percent of Canadian users. Those selected will only discover they are affected when they try to share news content and receive a notification blocking them from doing so.

The restrictions will not apply to all news stories but will target specific news publishers. The exact duration and number of affected users are undisclosed, but Meta estimates that 24 million people in Canada use their apps.

News outlets affected by the tests will also be chosen randomly based on criteria outlined in the bill, which defines eligible news businesses as qualified Canadian journalism organizations producing news content of public interest. International news publishers with a presence in Canada may also be included in the test.

The Canadian government introduced Bill C-18 to address the dominance of digital platforms in the digital advertising market, which it believes unfairly impacts news outlets.

Meta and Google argue that news content represents a small percentage of their platforms' queries and revenue. Meta claims to send over a billion clicks to news publisher sites annually, generating hundreds of millions in revenue.

In response to the bill, Meta proposes amendments to definitions and availability of news content. However, as the bill progresses through its final weeks of study, it is uncertain whether any changes will be made.

Meta believes it is necessary to conduct tests now to prepare for the potential passing of the bill and understand the impact on Canadians' access to news sources.

Source: Global News