Meta is threatening to block news content in Canada as the country considers proposed legislation that would compel digital platforms such as Facebook and Google to compensate domestic publishers they share news from.
Marc Dinsdale, head of media partnerships for Meta Canada, said in a blog post: “[F]aced with adverse legislation that is based on false assumptions that defy the logic of how Facebook works, we feel it is important to be transparent about the possibility that we may be forced to consider whether we continue to allow the sharing of news content in Canada.”
Facebook made a similar move last year in response to a comparable bill in Australia by banning Australian news content. It also “inadvertently” took down official government pages of agencies like the Bureau of Meteorology, Department of Fire and Emergency Services Western Australia, and Queensland Health. Google also threatened to cut off Search from Australian users over the proposed legislation.
The applied pressure led to an amendment that addressed the companies’ “core concerns”.
Dinsdale argues that Canada’s proposed Online News Act “misrepresents the relationship between platforms and news publishers” as the bill’s framework “presumes that Meta unfairly benefits from its relationship with publishers, when in fact the reverse is true”.
“Under the current system, Facebook helps publishers,” asserted Dinsdale, who said Facebook estimates it provides $230m CAD in the form of “free marketing for their content”.
Dinsdale goes on to say that “news content is not a draw for our users and is not a significant source of revenue for our company”, adding that posts with links to news articles “make up less than 3% of what people see in their Facebook Feed”.
A study this summer from the Medill School of Journalism found that, in the US, two newspapers are closing per week as publications fail to receive revenue from digital platforms sharing their stories, amid other concerns of decreased print subscriptions.