Meta’s biggest attack yet on Canada’s online news act

There are few guarantees in life: Death, taxes, and your relatives angrily sharing news articles on Facebook. And even that last one might soon disappear.

What happened: Meta will soon begin tests to temporarily block ~5% of its 24 million Canadian users from sharing, posting, and seeing news on Facebook and Instagram. 

Why it’s happening: Bill C-18 (aka The Online News Act), which is expected to pass this year, would force platforms to strike deals with publishers for the right to share articles, leading Big Tech to react like Michael Scott when Toby returned. 

  • Google, another opponent of the bill, also ran blocking tests earlier this year, temporarily turning off Google News for ~4% of Canadian users for several weeks. 

Why it matters: As Canadian media publishers steadily see their revenues fall off a cliff, Bill C-18 aims to help make Canada’s news ecosystem sustainable by forcing Big Tech to share the wealth. That plan doesn’t work if Big Tech decides it doesn’t need news. 

  • While the test will only last for a month, Meta said it will “end the availability of news content in Canada permanently” if Bill C-18 passes in its current form.
  • And Meta is confident such a move would hurt publishers way more than it would hurt them, claiming that Facebook generated over 1.9 billion clicks in Canada for news articles between April 2021-2022, traffic they claim is worth over $230 million.

Yes, but: Meta has tried this strategy before with mixed results. In 2021, it blocked news sharing on Facebook across Australia after the country looked to pass its own online news act. While the Aussies made amendments, Facebook was still forced into some pricey deals.

Bottom line: Regardless of the outcome, the days of Canadian media outlets depending on traffic from fickle social sites are numbered.