Meta has begun blocking all news content on Facebook and Instagram in Canada, a change it expects all users in the country to see within “the next few weeks.” That’s in response to the country’s Online News Act, which would require tech companies like Meta and Google to negotiate with and pay publishers for their news content.
The blocks don’t just apply to news publishers with accounts on the two platforms but also to links shared by users. If a Canadian person is friends with someone who lives in Kansas and that Kansan shares a link on Facebook to, say, this Verge article, their northerly friend won’t be able to view it.
Meta calls this a “business decision,” saying it chooses to block news in order to comply with the Online News Act. The company says the Canadian government based its new legislation “on the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms,” insisting that news organizations actually benefit from the sharing of their information on its platforms and people don’t come to Facebook or Instagram for news.
In a statement emailed to The Verge, Minister of Canadian Heritage Pascale St-Onge says the country will stand its ground as Meta moves forward with its “irresponsible” message to Canada and other governments. “Facebook knows they have no obligations under the Act right now,” she said before criticizing Meta for blocking “good quality and local news instead of paying their fair share to news organization.”
The company announced it would make good on threats to take the extraordinary step when the bill received royal assent in June, after a short time testing the change. Google is planning similar action for local news, which it will block starting when the law takes effect “no later than 180 days” after the bill’s June 22nd passage.
Update August 2nd, 2023, 10:56AM ET: Added a statement from Minister of Canadian Heritage Pascale St-Onge.