Over the next few weeks, Meta will begin to block people in canada-media-profile/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Canada from viewing or posting news links and audiovisual news content on Instagram and Facebook. This comes after the country passed Bill C-18 in June, now the Online News Act, a law that requires Big Tech to pay local news outlets fees for showing their content.
People can still access and share news outside Instagram and Facebook, but Meta’s decision is causing concern among experts and news organizations who say removing reliable news sources will subject users to misinformation and hurt local news outlets that rely on the two platforms for visibility.
News could be wiped out from Google soon, too. In June, the company said it would remove Canadian news links when the law takes effect rather than pay content fees.
Michael Geist, a law professor and chair of internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, told NBC News that the response to the legislation has created “a news desert in Canada on popular social media platforms.”
He said the impact will be acutely felt by Canadian media companies, especially smaller independent outlets that rely on significant traffic and revenues from social media.
“If the news and news-style content that remains on the platform comes from less credible sources or has a higher risk of misinformation, that, I think, is a problem from a democratic perspective” Geist added.
CBC/Radio-Canada, a national public broadcaster, said in a statement Tuesday that Meta’s decision “means that people in Canada who have come to rely on these platforms to find and access news and information about their country are now left with only unverified sources in their feeds.”
Facebook, a popular social network for news in Canada and heavily relied on for news by Canada’s minority and rural communities, is one of many social media platforms that deal with misinformation and fake news.
In the wake of ending news availability in Canada, Meta said it would “continue to combat misinformation” on its platforms by fact-checking remaining content through third-party organizations.
Once someone loses access to news on Facebook and Instagram, they will instead see the message: “People in Canada can’t see this content.”
Anna McKenzie, a reporter at IndigiNews, a Vancouver-based Indigenous news site, was one of the early users who stopped seeing Canadian news in July, she told NBC News. She said Facebook has helped her women-led newsroom connect with Indigenous communities.
“It just feels very scary to have our federal government and these giant tech companies making these really, really big decisions without considering the silencing of marginalized voices,” she said. “If you don’t see a reflection of yourself in the press and the news, that can really affect your identity.”