The rhetoric around Bill C-18 has escalated in recent days in light of the awful wildfires in NWT and British Columbia. In my view, the issues associated with these tragic events have little to do with Meta blocking news links and the attempt to bring it into the conversation is a transparent attempt to score political points (the connectivity issues with some NWT communities completely taken offline for days is somehow never mentioned). The reality is that Meta was asked about just this scenario at committee and it made it clear that it would not block any non-news outlet links. That is precisely what has been happening and the government’s legislative choices should be the starting point for understanding why compliance with the law involves blocking a very broad range of news links that extend beyond even those sources that are defined as “eligible news outlets”.
The government and supporters of Bill C-18 talking points now emphasize two things in relation to Meta blocking news links: the law has yet to take effect and there is room to address their concerns in the regulation-making process. Both of these claims are incredibly deceptive, relying on the assumption that most won’t bother to read the actual legislation. If they did, they would see that (1) the law has received royal assent and can take effect anytime and (2) the regulation making process addresses only a small subset of Bill C-18 issues with most of the core issues finalized. In other words, the time to shape the law and address many of the key concerns was before the government repeatedly cut off debate in order to ensure it that received royal assent before the summer break.