Meta, the parent company of social networking platforms Facebook and Instagram, has threatened to remove news content from its sites in Canada if proposed legislation passes. The proposed Online News Act, also known as Bill C-18, aims to establish a system of “fair revenue sharing” between news publishers and digital platforms. Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, called the legislation “flawed” and said it would make Canada the “first democracy to put a price on free links to web pages, which flies in the face of global norms”. Any publishers that rely on traffic, engagement or brand awareness from Meta properties could suffer significant losses if the legislation is passed and news content is blocked from being shared.

Meta threatened to remove news content from its platform last year due to US legislation that would have allowed news companies to negotiate collectively with social platforms regarding the terms on which their material appears on their sites. In 2021, Facebook also had a separate standoff with Australia over similar legislation.

Bill C-18 “proposes a regime to regulate digital platforms that act as intermediaries in Canada’s news media ecosystem in order to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news market” according to the government of Canada. Meanwhile, Google has already limited access to news in Canada, having recently tested blocking news across Google surfaces and Canadian publisher websites in a move thought to be a “potential product response to Bill C-18”. Despite criticism from Meta and Google, the legislation has garnered support from some Canadian news publishers, particularly in light of their long-running complaints that digital platforms profit from the sharing of news content without recompense.

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