Meta’s decision to block news content from their platforms in Canada as a response to the federal government’s Online News Act has led to major broadcasters like the CBC calling upon Canada’s Competition Bureau to investigate the tech company.
CBC and other news publications are calling the movie “anticompetitive” and are seeking help from the Bureau.
Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, requires tech companies like Meta and Google to pay news outlets for news content that is posted and shared on their platforms. Meta announced that they will simply ban such outlets from using their services like Facebook and Instagram in response to the new law. The tech giants believe the new legislature is unfair, unrealistic and negates the reality that their platforms offer “free marketing” for media outlets like the CBC.
“Meta’s practices are clearly designed to discipline Canadian news companies, prevent them from participating in and accessing the advertising market, and significantly reduce their visibility to Canadians on social media channels,” said the CBC, in a joint statement also signed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and News Media Canada.
“Meta’s anticompetitive conduct, which has attracted the attention of regulators around the world, will strengthen its already dominant position in advertising and social media distribution and harm Canadian journalism,” the statement continued. “The applicants ask the Competition Bureau to use its investigative and prosecutorial tools to protect competition and prohibit Meta from continuing to block Canadians’ access to news content.”
The legacy media has previously been in favour of Bill-C-18, claiming that it would “enhance fairness” in the new digital landscape and be financially beneficial to newsrooms with diminishing incomes. CBC/Radio-Canada’s corporate position regarding Bill C-18 is that it will allow for a more even handed news environment.
Meta and Google have past been accused of edging out smaller newsrooms and traditional media by dominating the advertising industry.
“Facebook … would rather block their users from accessing good quality and local news instead of paying their fair share to news organizations,” said Pascale St-Onge, Canada’s Heritage Minister. “Google and Facebook earn 80 per cent of all digital advertising revenue in Canada. Meanwhile, hundreds of newsrooms have closed. A free and independent press is fundamental to our democracy, and Canadians expect tech giants to follow the law in our country.”
A spokesperson for Meta, on the other hand, disagrees with the Online News Act, claiming their decision to end news content on these platforms is a result of being forced to do so by the federal government.
“The Online News Act is based on the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, when the reverse is true. News outlets voluntarily share content on Facebook and Instagram to expand their audiences and help their bottom line,” said Meta’s spokesperson in a statement. “The only way we can reasonably comply with this legislation is to end news availability for people in Canada.”
Paul Deegan, president and CEO of News Media Canada, alleges that Meta has violated section 79 of the Competition Act through its dominant position in the social media landscape. Section 79 bans abuse of a dominant market position.
“We fully expect that they’ll come to the same conclusion that we have, that this is in contravention of Section 79 of the Competition Act, and that they will take appropriate action.” said Deegan in an interview on Tuesday. “So we’ve, essentially, called the cops, meaning the Competition Bureau, and we’ve asked them to investigate,”
In the meantime, Deegan is asking that governments and Canadian businesses remove any advertisements from Meta’s platforms.