As the Trudeau government’s controversial Online News Act, C-18, inches closer to becoming law, tech giant Meta is testing a new feature on its platforms that will block news content for many Canadians in a trial run that will last a month. 

The announcement comes after the Head of public policy at Meta Canada Rachel Curran said the platform would be making a stand against Bill C-18, which would require social media platforms to pay Canadian media outlets for their content.

Meta says it is prepared to block news on Facebook and Instagram if Bill C-18 passes the Senate, which could come as early as later this month. 

Curran told The Canadian Press that the first tests would affect anywhere from one to five percent of Canada’s 24 million users and would prevent them from viewing links to news articles, reels and stories.

Meta says it will randomly choose news outlets and notify them that some users in Canada will not be able to view or share their content during the testing period. Curran clarified that only users who reside in Canada will be affected.

Curran says that Meta will not remove content or pages that are not related to news and that most pages will still be accessible.

“This is a business decision that we are forced to make,” said Curran last month highlighting Meta’s concerns with the legislation. “We will remove news in a way that is careful, responsible and transparent.”

“We believe that news has a real social value,” said Curran. “The problem is that it doesn’t have much of an economic value to Meta.”

“So if we are being asked to compensate news publishers for material that has no economic value to us, that’s where the problem is.”

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez called Meta’s refusal to with the proposed legislation, “unacceptable.”

“The fact that Facebook is still refusing to work with Canadians shows how deeply irresponsible and out of touch they are,” wrote Rodriguez in a tweet

“When a big tech company, no matter their size, no matter the amount of money and the powerful lawyers they have, comes here and tells us, “if you don’t do this or that, then I’m pulling the plug” – that’s a threat and is unacceptable,” Rodriguez wrote.

“Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.”

Meta isn’t the only big tech platform opposing the government’s Online News Act.

In March, Google announced they were running tests in order to understand how Bill C-18 would affect search results and concluded they were not in favour of the bill in its current form.

“Bill C-18 puts a price on free links,” wrote Vice President of Google Canada Sabrina Geremia. 

“When you put a price on linking to certain information, you no longer have a free and open web.”
In addition, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 200,000 businesses, wrote a protest letter to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage against Bill C-18, saying it is undemocratic.