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In response to the Senate’s passing of the Online News Act, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has confirmed that it will remove news content from its platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, for all Canadian users. However, it remains uncertain whether Google will follow suit with its platforms.
The Online News Act, also known as Bill C-18, aims to compel Google and Facebook to share revenues with publishers for news stories on their platforms. By removing news content entirely, the companies would be exempt from the legislation.
Facebook announced in a blog post that news availability on Facebook and Instagram will cease for all users in Canada before the Online News Act takes effect. The move aligns with their intention to comply with the newly passed legislation.
Canadians may also witness the disappearance of news content from their Google searches if Google chooses a similar course of action.
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez is currently engaged in last-minute discussions with Google. Rodriguez emphasized that Facebook has no obligations under the act and stated that if the government fails to stand up to tech giants on behalf of Canadians, the regulatory and implementation process following the Royal Assent of Bill C-18 will come into effect.
“Facebook knows very well that they have no obligations under the act right now. Following the Royal Assent of Bill C-18, the Government will engage in a regulatory and implementation process. If the Government can’t stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?” the minister said in an email.
While the bill does not specifically mention Google and Meta, it applies to companies that make news content available and holds a significant bargaining power imbalance with news businesses. If Google and Meta cease to provide news content, the bill would no longer apply to them, releasing them from revenue-sharing obligations.
Google had previously expressed concerns and warned that it may terminate existing agreements with Canadian news outlets in response to the bill. The company has proposed changes to the legislation but claims that none of its concerns have been addressed.
These platforms’ potential removal of news content raises questions about the government’s recourse. Options discussed include pulling government advertising from the platforms, implementing new programs, or increasing funding for existing ones. Additionally, the platforms could face reputational repercussions if they proceed with removing news content.
Bill C-18, modelled after Australia’s legislation, requires Google and Facebook to negotiate commercial deals for revenue-sharing with news publishers. Google has sought a clear and attainable path to exemption, which the bill does not currently provide.
Supporters of the bill have praised its passage, highlighting the opportunity for fair negotiations between news businesses and dominant search and social media companies.
As the situation unfolds, Canadians await further developments regarding the presence of news content on these platforms and the potential implications for the media landscape in the country.
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