Meta threatens to block news content in Canada over media revenue-sharing legislation

The company isn't happy about the country's proposed Online News Act.

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Facebook parent company Meta says it may stop Canadians from sharing news content in response to the country’s proposed Bill C-18 legislation. Introduced by the ruling Liberal government earlier this year, The Online News Act seeks to force platforms like Facebook into revenue-sharing partnerships with local news organizations. The legislation is modeled after Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code, which the country successfully passed in early 2021 after considerable resistance from Google and Meta.

In a blog post published late Friday, Meta said it wanted to be “transparent about the possibility that we may be forced to consider whether we continue to allow the sharing of news content in Canada.” The threat came after the House of Commons Heritage Committee did not invite Meta to a meeting about the legislation earlier in the week. The panel did hear testimony from Google, though only after the company asked to be included in the proceedings.

“We have always approached our engagement with Canadian public authorities on this legislation in the spirit of honest and fair debate, and so were surprised not to receive an invitation to participate, particularly given public comments by lawmakers that this law is targeted at Facebook,” Meta said following the snub. The Canadian government and social media giant have had an acrimonious relationship ever since CEO Mark Zuckerberg and former COO Sheryl Sandberg ignored subpoenas from the parliament’s ethics committee in 2019.

The bill’s sponsor, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, accused Meta of using the same playbook the company employed in Australia. “All we’re asking the tech giants like Facebook to do is negotiate fair deals with news outlets when they profit from their work,” he told The National Post. Among other objections, Meta claims news content is not a significant source of revenue for the company. When Australia enacted its News Media Bargaining Code, Meta briefly cut access to all news content within the country. However, the company eventually signed agreements with organizations like News Crop to carry their coverage.