A group of Canadian news publishers and broadcasters are calling on Canada’s Competition Bureau to investigate and prohibit Meta from blocking news content on its digital platforms.
Social media giant Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has said it will begin blocking news on its platforms in Canada starting Tuesday after the Canadian government passed a bill forcing Google and Meta to pay publishers for content they link to or repurpose.
News Media Canada, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and CBC said in a joint statement they have filed a request to the Competition Bureau to investigate Meta’s “abuse of its dominant position.”
They said the practices of the social media giant are “anticompetitive” as they will prevent Canadian news companies from accessing the advertising market and significantly reduce their visibility to Canadians on social media platforms.
“Meta’s conduct will inevitably diminish Canadian news consumers’ exposure to news content and the volume of traffic to Canadian news organizations’ websites, thereby impairing their ability to compete for revenue from online advertising and from their readers,” the three said in a news release.
The news publishers and broadcasters said they are calling on the Competition Bureau to use its prosecutorial tools to prohibit Meta from blocking Canadians’ access to news content.
Asked to respond to the application, Meta spokeswoman Lisa Laventure pointed to the company’s previous comments on the Online News Act, also known as Bill C-18, where it has said the law is built on a flawed premise that leads it to block news.
“The only way we can reasonably comply with this legislation is to end news availability for people in Canada,” the company said.
Meta had previously been blocking news content for some users in Canada but the move is set to extend to all Canadians on Tuesday. Canadians will no longer be able to view or post news on Facebook or Instagram and news organizations will start to see their stories blocked on those platforms.
The company noted that Canadians can still access news online by going directly to news publishers’ websites or using their mobile news apps.
Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said in a statement that Meta does not yet have obligations under the Online News Act. The government is still developing regulations for the law that is set to come into effect by the end of the year.
St-Onge said the company has not participated in the regulatory process.
“They would rather block their users from accessing good quality and local news instead of paying their fair share to news organizations,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 8, 2023.