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Aug. 2, 2023, 1:50 p.m.
Business Models

Meta will remove legit news from Facebook and Instagram in Canada — but may leave the bad stuff up

The changes “will be implemented for all people accessing Facebook and Instagram in Canada over the course of the next few weeks,” with news outlets identified “based on legislative definitions and guidance from the Online News Act.”

Meta had said it would remove news from its platforms in Canada if the country’s Online News Act passed. The bill, which requires big tech companies like Google and Meta to negotiate with publishers over use of their news content on platforms, did indeed pass, and Meta has now followed through on the threat — just as it did in Australia in 2021.

Australia backtracked, leading Facebook to do the same. Now Canada faces the same decision, but on Tuesday Meta announced that it “has begun the process of ending news availability in Canada,” and that the changes “will be implemented for all people accessing Facebook and Instagram in Canada over the course of the next few weeks. We are identifying news outlets based on legislative definitions and guidance from the Online News Act.”

That part about using “guidance from the Online News Act” to determine news outlets is important, my colleague Josh Benton pointed out to me. Here’s how that act defines eligible news businesses:

1. qualified Canadian journalism organizations under the Income Tax Act
2. Canadian organizations producing news content focused primarily on issues of general interest, provided they employ at least 2 journalists and adhere to a code of journalistic ethics
3. licensed campus, community or Indigenous broadcasters; or
4. Indigenous news outlets, run by Indigenous people

The end result could be Meta removing access to almost all legitimate news organizations, but leaving up links to news stories from disreputable outlets, or blogs and other one-person operations. (Pablo Rodriguez, the minister of Canadian heritage, recently told the Seattle Times who will and won’t qualify as a news outlet under the act: “There’s a set of criteria to be met to be considered to have the right to negotiate with the tech giants…We have a set of criteria that has to be met by a specific media to sit at the end of that table.” The news outlets that would be allowed “to sit at the end of that table” are the ones Meta will now remove.)

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Not mentioned yet: Meta’s recently launched Twitter competitor, Threads. I’ve asked the company if it plans to block the sharing of news links there, too.

Here’s what the changes mean, according to the company.

For Canadian news outlets this means:
News links and content posted by news publishers and broadcasters in Canada will no longer be viewable by people in Canada. We are identifying news outlets based on legislative definitions and guidance from the Online News Act.

For international news outlets this means:
News publishers and broadcasters outside of Canada will continue to be able to post news links and content, however, that content will not be viewable by people in Canada.

For our Canadian community this means:
People in Canada will no longer be able to view or share news content on Facebook and Instagram, including news articles and audio-visual content posted by news outlets.

For our international community this means:
There is no change to our services for people accessing our technologies outside of Canada.

The official statements on all the sides are pretty much as you’d expect. “The legislation is based on the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, when the reverse is true,” Meta said in its blog post. (When Meta removed news in Australia, traffic to news publishers plummeted.) The head of the trade association News Media Canada said that “Without access to real fact-based news created by real journalists, Facebook will become far less attractive to users and advertisers.”

Photo by Praveen Kumar Nandagiri on Unsplash.

Laura Hazard Owen is the editor of Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email (laura_owen@harvard.edu) or Twitter DM (@laurahazardowen).
POSTED     Aug. 2, 2023, 1:50 p.m.
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