Meta warns the Canadian Government that it may remove links to news on Facebook or Instagram if social media platforms are forced to pay content providers for their work.
Bill C-18 will require that companies, such as Meta or Google, strike agreements with Canadian Media Companies to pay for online links to the content of those companies. This could amount to hundreds of million dollars each year. It’s already passed through the House of Commons, and is now being considered by the Senate’s Committee on Transport and Communications.
Meta is in a bad position because of this law. Nick Clegg is the president of global affairs. “In order to comply with this legislation, we either have to operate in an unfair and flawed regulatory environment or we must stop providing news content to Canadians.”
With a heavy-hearted heart, we chose the second option. The Minister of Canadian Heritage stated that this was a business choice. It’s not something we want to do, but it is what we will have to do.”
Meta says that it is worried about the fact that many of the Act funds will be going to local and regional publishing houses, not to the national broadcasters. This would be ‘Robin Hood reversed’ according to Clegg.
The proposals, while being compared with similar plans in Australia go further than that, says he, and make Canada the very first democracy to charge links on web pages.
Clegg had been scheduled to speak yesterday at a Senate Committee hearing on the Bill, but he pulled out claiming the agenda of the meeting seemed to have changed.
“Meta’s President, Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, had been due to speak later today at a hearing of Canada’s Heritage Committee entitled ‘The Response of Companies in the Information Technology Sector to Bill C-18’. This was an opportunity to present and discuss Meta’s position in relation to Canada’s draft Online News Act (C-18), as Meta representatives did at a Senate committee last week,” the company says in a statement.
“Late on Thursday, the committee notified Meta that the title of the hearing had changed to ‘Tech Giants’ Current and Ongoing Use of Intimidation and Subversion Tactics to Evade Regulation in Canada and Across the World’. It was clear that this hearing would not be the same as Nick Clegg’s.
Clegg resigned shortly before the scheduled meeting. Instead, he sent Kevin Chan, the company’s global policy director, and Rachel Curran, public policy head for Canada, who told the committee that the company was already working on a content blocking strategy for news links in Canada.
Meta is also attempting to disassociate itself from Google, with Clegg saying that the company doesn’t solicit, need or collect content from news websites to put on its services, with users or publishers choosing to share it themselves.
Facebook Feed, says he, sent Canadian news publishers more than 1.9 million clicks over the 12-month period ending April 2022. That’s ‘free advertising’ worth $230,000,000, says he.
“The truth is, our users don’t come to us for news. “They come to us to share their ups and the downs, what makes them happy or sad, whatever interests them, and is entertaining,” says he.
“Links to news stories are a tiny proportion of that – less than three percent of the content they see in their Facebook Feed.”