Meta has announced that it is conducting a temporary test to block access to news content on Facebook and Instagram for select Canadian users.
This test is expected to continue until the end of June. The decision to implement the block comes as a response to Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, which proposes that tech giants pay publishers for using their content online.
The bill is currently under consideration in the Senate and could be passed as early as this month.
In the event that Bill C-18 is enacted, Meta has stated its readiness to permanently block news content on Facebook and Instagram for Canadian users. Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez expressed disappointment with Meta’s actions and emphasized that Canadians will not be intimidated by such tactics.
During the temporary test, a portion of Meta’s 24 million Canadian users, estimated to be between one to five percent, will be randomly selected and unable to view or share news content on Instagram and Facebook within Canada. This includes news links, reels (short-form videos), and stories (photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours).
Rachel Curran, Head of Public Policy for Meta Canada, explained that the number of users impacted will fluctuate throughout the duration of the test. Meta’s aim is to assess the implications and effects of blocking news content for Canadian users.
The decision to temporarily block news content in response to the proposed legislation highlights the ongoing debate and tension between tech giants and publishers regarding the use and compensation of online news content.
As part of the ongoing test, international news companies such as the New York Times or BBC may also experience content blocks in Canada if they are randomly selected.
Meta has stated that it will randomly choose news publishers who will be informed that some Canadian users will be unable to view or share their news content during the test period.
However, users will still have access to their accounts, pages, business suites, and advertising features.
The proposed bill has garnered support from legacy media and broadcasters, as it aims to promote fairness in the digital news marketplace and provide financial support to struggling newsrooms.
Tech giants like Meta and Google have faced criticism for their impact on the advertising industry, overshadowing smaller traditional players.
Meta, headquartered in Menlo Park, California, has previously implemented similar measures. In 2021, it briefly blocked news content in Australia following the country’s enactment of legislation requiring tech companies to compensate publishers for using their news stories. Subsequently, Meta reached agreements with Australian publishers to resolve the issue.