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Meta Platforms Inc to block news content in Canada amidst content payment dispute

Meta Platforms Inc, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced plans to terminate news content access for all users in Canada, as reported by CNN. The move follows the enactment of a new legislation requiring internet behemoths to pay news publishers for their content. The legislation, known as the Online News Act, was ratified by the Canadian Senate earlier on Thursday and will become law following the royal assent from the Governor General.

Prompted by Canada’s media industry’s ongoing grievances, the Act seeks to establish stricter regulations on tech companies. The media industry is concerned about the possibility of being pushed out of the online advertising market by these tech giants.

In a formal statement, Meta Platforms Inc confirmed, “News availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada prior to the Online News Act taking effect.” The company had hinted at such action for weeks, claiming news brings no economic value to the company and that users don’t primarily utilise the platform for news consumption.

The newly approved Act compels platforms such as Facebook and Google to negotiate commercial agreements and remunerate news publishers for their content. This move echoes the legislation passed in Australia in 2021, a groundbreaking law in its own right.

Both Google and Facebook have opposed these proposals, dubbing them unsustainable for their businesses. Google has particularly taken issue with the scope of Canada’s law, arguing that it goes beyond similar laws enacted in Australia and Europe. Google proposed amendments to the bill, suggesting that the display of news content, rather than links, should be the basis for payment. They further suggested that only businesses adhering to journalistic standards and producing news should be eligible.

The Canadian federal government, however, has resisted the proposed changes. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this month accused Google and Meta of deploying “bullying tactics” against the legislation.

Historically, both Google and Facebook had threatened to limit their services in Australia when similar legislation was passed. However, they ended up striking deals with Australian media companies after certain amendments were made to the legislation.

Pablo Rodriguez, the Heritage Minister who introduced the bill, confirmed that the government will embark on a regulatory and implementation process following the legislation’s enactment. He questioned, “If the government can’t stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?” in a recent statement.

Danielle Coffey, president of the News Media Alliance global industry group, commended the Canadian Parliament for its bold stance against Big Tech, expressing hope for other countries, including the United States, to follow suit.

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