In a previous blog post, we covered Bill C-18 (Online News Act) and how this proposed legislation would require digital media platforms to compensate news outlets when reproducing or otherwise facilitating access to their content. At the time of the post, Bill C-18 had recently been tabled by Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez. Although it initially received a mixed response from the public, the full impact of the bill on news media remained unknown.

Since then, Bill C-18 has received royal assent and is expected to come into force by the end of 2023. The legislation’s stated aim is to regulate digital media platforms, such as social media sites or search engines, by promoting voluntary commercial agreements between the platform and news outlets. These agreements would provide compensation to news outlets when their content is made available on the platform. Under the bill, content is made available when it is reproduced or when access to the content is facilitated by any means.

Response to the Passage of Bill C-18

In anticipation of Bill C-18 coming into force, Meta and Google have announced they will no longer share Canadian news on their platforms. Meta will begin to block access to news on Facebook and Instagram over the coming months, with the content already being blocked for some users. Up to 5% of Facebook and Instagram users can no longer see posts from news outlets on their feeds, nor can they share or view links to news articles. Similarly, Google will remove news links from the search engine, Google News, and Google Discover at some point before the law comes into effect. Meta and Google have long been critical of Bill C-18, arguing the legislation is unfair and amounts to a tax on links to news. The decision of these companies to block access to news media comes after months of warning that such measures would be necessary to comply with the proposed legislation.

Supporters of the legislation welcome the passage of Bill C-18. Media organizations have stated that the legislation will help address the power imbalance between digital media platforms and news sites. The Canadian news industry has been shrinking over the past decade, and digital media platforms earn the majority of ad revenue from news content. As such, supporters of the legislation believe compensation is necessary to ensure fairness and sustainability in the Canadian news industry.

What Next?

With approximately six months until Bill C-18 becomes law, there is time for the Federal government to negotiate with digital media platforms on the proposed law. Google has stated it is open to working with the government, and Minister Rodriguez has stated he hopes to reach a positive outcome with both Meta and Google. That said, the Federal government has stated that it remains steadfast in its defence of the legislation. Regardless, the government will likely need to consider the impact of Meta and Google’s proposed news blocks prior to the enactment of the legislation. Digital media platforms and news media may wish to follow negotiations between Meta, Google, and the Federal government to see whether the proposed blocks will come into place.