Facebook blocking news in Canada, Google may follow What to do

Facebook blocking news in Canada, Google may follow What to do

Canada’s Online News Act: A Battle Between Lawmakers and Tech Giants

Google and Facebook blocking news in Canada

In a recent blog post, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, announced its decision to block news in Canada, in response to the country’s new Online News Act. Google is also planning to block links to Canadian journalism later this year. This move comes as more countries, including Australia and now Canada, are implementing legislation to force tech companies to compensate publishers for linking articles. With news outlets struggling and journalists being laid off, while Silicon Valley giants rake in enormous revenue, a battle is brewing between lawmakers and the gatekeepers of the internet.

The Online News Act and Its Impact on News Publishers

The Online News Act, which is set to take effect at the end of 2023, will compel Google and Meta to compensate publishers when linking to news content. This legislation aims to address the significant disruption caused by the internet revolution, which upended traditional revenue streams for news outlets. Previously, newspapers relied on subscriptions, advertising, and classified sections to sustain their newsrooms. However, the migration of information online resulted in a decline in subscription revenue, as people began accessing news for free. Additionally, websites like Craigslist and eBay took over the role of newspaper classified sections for selling goods.

According to Pablo Rodriguez, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, a total of 450 Canadian news outlets have closed between 2008 and 2021. This dramatic decline has fostered public mistrust and the rise of disinformation. To counter this, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is actively encouraging Canadians to visit their site directly for the latest news.

The Global Implications

While these restrictions will only impact Canadians for now, similar publisher compensation laws have been implemented and proposed in other countries. Australia was the first to pass legislation in 2021 with the News Media Bargaining Code. Already considered successful, it is expected to generate $130 million annually. In Australia, both Google and Meta initially resisted the law but eventually reached a compromise. The state of California has also advanced a similar law, with Meta threatening to remove news content if it passes. US senators proposed the Journalism Competition Preservation Act last year, and its resurrection last month signals a renewed effort to regulate Big Tech.

Finding News Alternatives

For Canadians who want to stay up-to-date on news despite the forthcoming restrictions, there are several alternative ways to access information:

  • World News: The restriction only applies to Canadian publishers, so using Google to search for news topics will still yield results from non-Canadian publications.
  • Bing: Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, will continue to provide news links for Canadians. Microsoft has expressed support for an independent news ecosystem and the importance of a robust media industry in democratic systems.
  • Canadian News Sites and Social Media: Access Canadian news sites directly, and consider setting a Canadian news website (such as the CBC or Global News) as your browser’s default home page. You can also follow Canadian news outlets on social media platforms like Twitter.
  • Social Media Accounts: Follow news outlets on social media platforms like Twitter and explore website aggregation sites like Feedly that compile news from various publications.
  • Use a VPN: Canadians can use a VPN and set their location to the US or another country to view links from Canadian publishers in search results and on social media.
  • Reddit: Subscribe to relevant subreddit communities, such as r/Canada, r/Toronto, or r/BritishColumbia, where people discuss and share top stories.
  • Support Canadian Journalism: Explore innovative platforms, such as Post.news, which allows users to redeem points to read local articles, supporting Canadian websites in a more meaningful way than traditional banner ads.

The Impact of Big Tech on Journalism

The influence and power of Big Tech have raised concerns among governments worldwide. The unregulated expansion of technology giants like Google and Facebook has resulted in the closure of thousands of news outlets and widespread layoffs in the journalism industry. These platforms have become the primary way people access information online. Google, in particular, controls not only the gateway to the internet but also the advertising marketplace. Its dominance in driving traffic and increased focus on ad placements has directly affected the revenue potential of news websites.

Compensation for Canadian Journalism

The Canadian Online News Act aims to redirect $329 million to Canadian newsrooms, a seemingly modest amount compared to the massive revenues of Google and Meta, which reached $285 billion and $117 billion, respectively, last year. Critics argue that these tech giants are choosing to block news content rather than accepting a small share of their advertising profits. Despite the potential impact on their platforms, Google has previously shown a willingness to play the long game. Following a similar publisher compensation law in Spain, Google News withdrew for eight years before returning last year.

As regulators grapple with the power imbalance between tech giants and the journalism industry, debates over publisher compensation laws are likely to continue. The outcome of these battles will shape the future of news consumption and the financial sustainability of the journalism ecosystem.

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