Meta to Restrict News Access for Canadian Users in Response to Bill C-18, the Online News Act

In a groundbreaking announcement, Meta, the social media behemoth, declared that it will begin restricting news content for its Canadian users in response to the recently passed Bill C-18, the Online News Act. This move came on Thursday, coinciding with the day the bill received royal assent. The tech giant stated the transition would take a few months, as the restrictions wouldn’t be imposed instantly.

The bill, once it becomes law, would mandate tech juggernauts like Meta and Google to remunerate news outlets for featuring their journalism on their platforms. This impending regulatory measure has sparked a wide array of reactions, notably from Meta, which had initially threatened to remove news access for Canadian users of Facebook and Instagram in anticipation of the legislation’s passage.

The company’s official statement read: “We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18 … content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada.”

Following the royal assent, the Department of Canadian Heritage will formulate regulations delineating the act’s application and provide guidance on its implementation. The bill is expected to come into full force within six months.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez underscored the value of an independent press in the country’s democracy, highlighting how the act would put “the power of big tech in check.” He further emphasized that this regulation would ensure that all news businesses, regardless of their size, would benefit from this regime and receive fair compensation for their work.

Contrarily, Meta is currently undertaking a test to discontinue news access for a small percentage of Canadians, affecting between one to five per cent of the 24 million Canadians who use Facebook or Instagram. Meta clarified that the ongoing test and the future changes concerning news content would not otherwise impact Meta’s products and services in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced his disapproval of Meta’s approach, describing it as a bullying tactic and stating, “The fact that these internet giants would rather cut off Canadians’ access to local news than pay their fair share is a real problem.”

Meanwhile, Google expressed its displeasure with the impending law, describing Bill C-18 as “unworkable” and voicing concerns about its potential implications. The tech company is fervently seeking collaboration with the government to find a workable solution, stating it is “continuing to urgently seek to work” with the government to find a “path forward.”

This battle between the Canadian government and big tech firms over news content and the accompanying financial obligations marks a significant point in the discourse about the power dynamics in the digital information age.

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