The Montreal Gazette has announced that its reporters will boycott Meta on Friday, for one day, in protest of the tech company’s decision to remove news content from its social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram. 

Meta removed new content in response to the Online News Act, a bill from the Trudeau government which forces Meta and Google to pay news organizations for content posted on their platforms. 

The Gazette’s reporters will be joined in their boycott by several other Quebec journalists, as well as by Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand and Longueuil Mayor Catherine Fournier.

“Journalists are fighting for their livelihoods in a once profitable industry that is increasingly being strangled by digital behemoths. All of us are standing up for the importance of local news, the bread and butter of a well-informed society and the lifeblood of democracy,” wrote Allison Hanes, journalist for the Montreal Gazette.

“Google and Meta gobble up about 80 per cent of digital ad revenues in Canada, while traditional media are left with crumbs and struggle, shrink, slash their staffs and risk closure.” 

The Montreal Gazette worries that if legacy media outlets aren’t compensated for the content that they post freely on Meta’s various platforms, they not only run the risk of closure, but that a sea of misinformation and disinformation will assume their place. 

“Meta is implicitly inviting anyone with a half-baked theory to fill the vacuum left by local news with unverified half-truths, baseless assumptions, rampant conjecture — or worse, outright falsehoods. That happened enough as it was before the ban. But now there’s no counterweight to all that poisonous drivel since there are no stories from professional journalists who check the facts, ask the hard questions, follow the evidence, set the record straight, hold the powerful to account, afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” said Hanes.

“By choking off local news, Meta is not only abdicating responsibility for its outsize influence over society, it’s now actively contributing to making people stupider, keeping us in the dark and denying us credible information that can help make us good citizens in full possession of our rights.”

Hanes thinks this sort of behaviour is indicative of a company which has acted nefariously in the past, addressing Meta’s involvement with the highly controversial political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. 

“Bill C-18 may not be perfect. But at least it attempts to level the playing field with rich multinationals benefiting from the efforts of hard-working scribes toiling in contracting newsrooms to produce real journalism — which, besides being a noble endeavour, costs money,” Hanes said.