Meta and Google are promising to block links to Canadian news on their platforms in response to new laws requiring the tech giants to pay news publishers for content shared in Google Search and on Facebook.
Canada has followed Australia’s footsteps in trying to force the massive companies to the table with local news outlets in order to address a “significant bargaining power imbalance” between the people who make the news and the digital platforms that allow news content to be shared online.
Bill C-18 made it through both houses of the Canadian Parliament and was given the Royal Assent last month, leading to both Google and Meta saying they will make good on their threats to kill all news links for their Canadian users.
In a blog post last week, Google’s president of global affairs Kent Walker said Canada’s law is “unworkable” for the tech giant and that it is “willing to do more” to help journalism in the North American country.
“We just can’t do it in a way that breaks the way that the web and search engines are designed to work, and that creates an untenable product and financial uncertainty,” Walker said.
Meta has likewise said it will put an end to all news for its Canadian users once Bill C-18 takes effect.
“We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18, passed today in Parliament, content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada,” Meta said in a public statement.
The company has already started testing a way to block specific news links for and from Canadians, it said, and has committed to rolling out the full feature before the new laws take place.
In 2021, Google threatened to cut Australians off from search altogether if the News Media Bargaining Code passed.
Facebook went one step further by completely gutting Australian news in a deliberately clumsy protest of the laws that ended up blocking pages from the likes of the Bureau of Meteorology and Domestic Violence Awareness Australia.
The legislation did ultimately pass but with added exemptions for news companies that made deals with Meta and Google – resulting in clandestine agreements signed by Australian media heavyweights News Corp, Nine Entertainment, and Seven West.
Canada’s laws also allow for exemptions if Google and Meta make deals with Canadian news outlets, but clearly it’s not been enough to keep the companies satisfied.
Walker said there had been further discussion with the Canadian government on the eve of the bill’s passage in which Google “asked for clarity on financial expectations platforms face for simply linking to news”.
“They have not provided us with sufficient certainty that the regulatory process will be able to resolve structural issues with the legislation (such as forced payment for links and uncapped financial liability),” he went on to say.
Canadian Minister for Heritage Pablo Rodriguez said, following C-18’s passage, that “a strong, independent and free press is fundamental to our democracy”.
“The Online News Act will help make sure tech giants negotiate fair and equitable deals with news organisations,” he added.
Australian Treasury labelled our code a “success” in a report tabled late last year.
That report said the News Media Bargaining Code “has encouraged digital platforms to reach a substantial number of agreements with news businesses that would not have been made without the code”.
More than 30 commercial agreements had been made between Australian news outlets and the tech giants in the code’s first year, according to Treasury.