Meta uses unacceptable blackmail threat to oppose Canadian bill C-18

Meta is threatening to cut off news media access to its platforms, Facebook and Instagram, if Bill C-18 is passed. This proposed legislation provides mechanisms for financial redistribution to the media from the platforms.

Update on 6/23/23

RSF congratulates Canadian parliamentarians for not giving in to Meta's blackmail and passing the Online News Act on June 22nd.  It is regrettable, however, that Meta immediately responded by following through on its threat to pull all news content from their platform in the country. Just as it did in Australia, Meta is letting the world know that it prefers to remove information rather than pay for the journalistic content it profits from.

Meta is threatening to cut off access to news media on its Facebook and Instagram platforms if Bill C-18 (known as the "legislation concerning online communication platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada") is passed in Canada. This bill, which is currently being debated in Parliament, implies, among other things, that the platforms negotiate compensation with and for the news media publishing their content on them. Believing that this bill is unworkable and dangerous for its economic survival,  Meta has not hesitated to brandish the threat of banishing journalistic content if it is adopted.

RSF deplores this act of blackmail, which directly threatens the survival of Canadian media and, at the same time, access to news and information, one of the pillars of democracy.

“This recurring blackmail is intolerable. It is unacceptable to threaten journalism with banishment. Meta should seek to show that it is able to play a positive role in the fight against disinformation and for access to pluralistic information, rather than trying to influence public policies that might jeopardise its economic interests.”

Vincent Berthier

Head of RSF’s Tech Desk

This is not the first time Meta has done this. The company already used this weapon to twist the arms of legislators in Australia and the United States in response to proposed laws requiring platforms to pay media publishing on their services.

Google has not made any explicit threat, but its Canadian branch announced in early February that it was conducting a test run of a potential response to C-18’s adoption and its impact on links to news in Google Search and Discover in Canada. 

According to Reuters, these tests – conducted on 4% of Canadian users for five weeks – limited their access to news content. Aside from the unacceptably arbitrary nature of this temporary restriction on access to news, the test bodes ill for future access to news and information via Google if C-18 is passed.

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Updated on 23.06.2023