Canada persists with Facebook paying for news, confirms Trudeau

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FILE PHOTO: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York, U.S., September 21, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has affirmed that Canada will persist in exerting pressure on Meta, Facebook’s parent company, to comply with a new regulation compelling major internet firms to remunerate Canadian news outlets for their content. Trudeau’s statement comes in response to Meta’s decision to halt news sharing on its platforms in Canada as an alternative to paying for news content.

The Canadian government has officially released the final regulations for the Online News Act ahead of its enforcement, set to commence on December 19. The legislation requires technology companies with over 20 million unique monthly users and annual revenues exceeding C$1 billion to compensate Canadian news publishers for featuring links to their content.

Among the large internet companies meeting the specified criteria, Google and Meta (Facebook) are the primary platforms in Canada. In contrast to Google, which consented to an annual payment of C$100 million to news publishers in the country, Meta has chosen to block news content on Facebook and Instagram rather than comply with the financial obligations.

Trudeau, speaking to the press in Vancouver, reiterated the government’s commitment to pressurising Meta, emphasising the discrepancy between the company’s substantial profits and its reluctance to invest in supporting journalistic integrity and the sustainability of the media.

However, Meta has remained resolute in its stance, with Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada, asserting that the release of the final regulations does not alter the company’s decision. She stated that news outlets voluntarily utilise their free services as it is advantageous to their financial performance.

The enactment of this legislation is aligned with a global trend and aims to address the concerns of the Canadian media industry regarding diminishing revenue, attributed to internet companies dominating the online advertising market at the expense of news publishers.

Meta’s decision to block news sharing on Facebook and Instagram in August was based on the assertion that news content holds no economic value for the company’s operations.

Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, announced that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will be closely monitoring Facebook and Meta as part of its enforcement efforts.

CEO of News Media Canada, Paul Deegan, commended the government for implementing a “durable, world-leading framework that is balanced and predictable for both news publishers and platforms,” and urged Meta to follow Google’s example.

The efforts by the Canadian government to enforce the Online News Act and hold Meta accountable for compensating news publishers reflect a broader global shift towards regulating the digital media landscape. As the implementation of the law nears, the ongoing dispute between the Canadian government and Meta underscores the challenges in reconciling the interests of technology companies and traditional news outlets.

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