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Facebook, Instagram poised to block feeds from Canadian news media

Meta reacts to Liberal bill requiring Google and Meta to pay for news content passing in the Senate

A federal bill that will require Google and Meta to pay media outlets for news content that they share or otherwise repurpose on their platforms is set to become law.

Meta confirmed Thursday that it plans to comply with the bill by ending news availability on Facebook and Instagram for its Canadian users, as it had previously suggested.

Meta would not offer details about the timeline for that move, but said it will pull local news from its site before the online news act takes effect. The bill will come into force six months after it receives royal assent.

“We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18, which was 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,” said Meta spokesman Scott Reid.

The Senate has passed the bill in a final vote and it is now awaiting royal assent amid a standoff between the Liberal government and Silicon Valley tech giants.

Ottawa has said the law creates a level playing field between online advertising giants and the shrinking news industry. And Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has promised to push back on what he describes as “threats” from Facebook and Google to remove journalism from their platforms.

Rodriguez had meetings with both Facebook and Google this week, but his department didn’t disclose details.

Spokesperson Laura Scaffidi said the minister was set to have another meeting Thursday afternoon with Google, which has hinted that removing news links from its popular search engine is a possibility. The company didn’t provide comment on the matter.

Meta is already undergoing a test that blocks news for up to five per cent of its Canadian users, and Google ran a similar test earlier this year.

The Online News Act requires both companies to enter into agreements with news publishers to pay them for news content that appears on their sites if it helps the tech giants generate money.

“Following royal assent of Bill C-18, the government will engage in a regulatory and implementation process,” said Scaffidi.

“The tech giants do not have obligations under the act immediately after Bill C-18 passes. As part of this process, all details will be made public before any tech giant is designated under the act.”

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