Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has announced the commencement of tests on its platforms, Facebook and Instagram, which will restrict some users and publishers in Canada from viewing and sharing news content. The decision comes in response to the country's proposed Online Sharing Act, as outlined in a blog post by the company. The testing phase will span several weeks, and a select "small percentage" of affected users will receive notifications if they attempt to share news content.
In its blog post, Meta reiterated its stance, stating, "The Online News Act is fundamentally flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work, the preferences of the people who use them, and the value we provide news publishers."
The proposed law, also known as Bill C-18, was introduced by Canada's ruling Liberal government earlier this year, taking inspiration from a similar Australian law. Its objective is to compel internet platforms, including Facebook, to engage in revenue-sharing partnerships with local news organizations. The legislation was prompted, in part, by the dominant market position of Facebook and Google in the online advertising industry, with the two companies jointly commanding 80% of the revenue.
Meta had previously stated its intentions regarding the sharing of news content in Canada, expressing the possibility of limiting it. The company had issued this warning after not being invited to a government panel meeting concerning the proposed legislation. Google had also temporarily blocked some Canadian users from accessing news content. In response, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez deemed the tests "unacceptable," according to Reuters, stating, "When a big tech company... tells us, 'If you don't do this or that, then I'm pulling the plug' — that's a threat. I've never done anything because I was afraid of a threat."
Ultimately, Facebook, Google, and other tech giants reached an agreement with the Australian government, leading to the payment of publishers for news links with snippets. However, prior to this resolution, Facebook followed through on its threat to block users in Australia from sharing news links, though the ban was later lifted following further discussions and amendments addressing Facebook's concerns.
At present, the tests by Meta will only impact a small number of users for a limited duration. However, considering the previous events in Australia, Meta may potentially extend the news sharing restrictions to all users in Canada, potentially using it as leverage to encourage the government and publishers to engage in negotiations.