Canadians will be less informed when Meta pulls news content: advocate

Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, has announced that it will be pulling all Canadian news content from its platforms, something one advocate says will lead to Canadians being less informed.

The tech company announced Tuesday its intention to follow through on a threat made when the federal government passed Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act. The law would see tech companies like Meta and Google have to pay Canadian news organizations to post their content.

Read More: All news in Canada will be removed from Facebook, Instagram within weeks: Meta

Matt Hatfield, Campaign Director with the Vancouver-based internet advocacy group Open Media, says Meta’s announcement is not surprising, but it is disappointing.

“Unfortunately this is a predictable consequence of the way the government set up online news Bill C-18,” he told CityNews. “So, obviously it’s a terrible thing for many Canadians who see a lot of their news come through Meta platforms to see this made harder to access the news.”

One issue he points out is that platforms like Facebook will still be grounds on which public issues are discussed, but there would be a greater risk of misinformation spreading.

“Topics are still going to be discussed on Facebook. There’s a risk that people are still going to be hearing things about public issues, just less informed, more misinformed information. If there are only liars and con artists in the room, people are going to be hearing from those folk,” he said.

Hatfield calls the situation “a disaster in slow motion,” saying the federal government went about challenging the tech giants the wrong way.

“The government sort of dared platforms, ‘we’re going to make you pay for this content if you keep posting it’ and platforms are saying ‘we’re not going to post it,'” he explained.

“It’s sort of a lose-lose for everyone. News organizations are going to lose out a lot of clicks and revenue through that. Canadians are losing news. Platforms aren’t really gaining anything and all the revenue that was supposed to flow from C-18, it looks people won’t see, at least not from Meta.”

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Hatfield also fears that Meta won’t stop at just blocking Canadian news articles from being shared on Meta’s platforms.

“It’s possible that the way Meta is going to implement this block will be more aggressive than just blocking journalism organizations and they might be removing discussion of some topics altogether and yet that gets into real censorship concerns around people’s ability to communicate at all on the platform,” he said. “There’s a lot of ways this could play out but none of them are great, I don’t think.”

While Meta appears to be following through on threats toward the Canadian government, it isn’t the only tech giant that’s made them. Google has also indicated that it will begin pulling Canadian news content from its platforms due to Bill C-18.

The lack of Canadian news on tech platforms will mean that people will have to go directly to the source. To ensure you have the breaking news and information you need, stay with CityNews online, on TV, and on the radio.

With files from The Canadian Press

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