Facebook Bill C-18 notice

Facebook Bill C-18 notice


The Lose-Lose-Lose-Lose Bill C-18 Outcome: Meta Blocking News Links on Facebook and Instagram in Canada

For months, supporters of Bill C-18, the Online News Act, assured the government that Meta and Google were bluffing when they warned that a bill based on mandated payments for links was unworkable and they would comply with it by removing links to news from their platforms. However, what has been readily apparent for months became reality yesterday: Meta is now actively blocking news links and sharing on its Facebook and Instagram platforms. The announcement does not reference Threads, but it would not surprise if news links are ultimately blocked on that platform as well. The company says that the blocking will take several weeks to fully roll out to all users, suggesting that it has learned from the over-blocking mistakes made in Australia and is proceeding more cautiously in Canada. By the end of the month, the world’s largest social media platform will become a news desert in Canada, with links to all news – both Canadian and foreign – blocked on the platform.

It is worth revisiting that it was only a couple of months ago that some industry leaders, lobbyists, and academics were assuring the Senate that the Meta threat was just a bluff. Kevin Desjardins of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, referenced the Australian experience, and told the Senate committee studying the bill that “when legislated to do so, they will come to the table.” Sylvain Poisson of Hebdos Quebec confidently said “they made those threats in Australia and elsewhere and every time they back down.” Chris Pedigo of the U.S.-based Digital Context Next assured the committee “it’s important to understand what happens when these bills become law. In Australia, they moved quickly to secure deals. They have done similar work in Europe, and I expect it would happen quickly in Canada as well.” And Carleton professor Dwayne Winseck said “I am not worried. The threats they are making, they are doing this all around the world.”

Despite the assurances, the company was true to its word and blocking news links is now here. If this is a negotiation tactic, it’s a pretty strange one given that reports indicate the company is not talking to the government about potential changes to a law that has already received royal assent. Indeed, while the new Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge urged the company to participate in the regulatory process, there is nothing in the regulations that could alter the fundamental principle in the bill of mandated payments for links. At best, the government could toss aside its commitment to stay out of negotiations by using the regulations to dictate to the supposedly independent CRTC how much needs to be spent in order to avoid Bill C-18’s final offer arbitration provisions. Government negotiating total payment value and eviscerating the CRTC’s independence does not inspire confidence and Meta reasonably wants no part of it, since the time to fix Bill C-18 was before it received royal assent, not after.

It is difficult to overstate the harm that Bill C-18 will create for the media sector in Canada, with enormous losses that will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Indeed, just the exit of Meta will lead to the losses that include the cancellation of existing deals, lost links that accounts for as much as 30% of referral traffic, and no new revenues from Bill C-18 from one of the two platforms that were supposed to fall under the law. The move virtually guarantees that Bill C-18 will represent a setback for the sector and a cautionary tale for a government that blithely ignored the warning signs, seemed to welcome a fight with the tech companies, and had no Plan B. In fact, if Google follows suit, there will be even more cancelled deals, lost links, and absolutely no new revenues from the legislation given that those are the only companies subject to the law (former Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s insistence that there is value in links that deserve compensation while simultaneously excluding Microsoft, Apple, Twitter and other platforms from the law amply demonstrates how the argument stands on shaky grounds).

As disbelief has shifted to acceptance, Canadian media outlets are now rushing to promote direct access to their content via web, email or any other non-social media platform. The government is also seemingly hoping to drum up support for its ad boycott of Meta, yet given that the Liberal party launched new ads on Facebook just this week, that may be a hard sell. Instead, having rejected alternatives that could have avoided this outcome, the government has remarkably created a lose-lose-lose-lose scenario. 

Canadian media is a loser, particularly the small and independent media outlets that are more reliant on social media to develop community and build their audience. The loss of Facebook links will take a serious toll and undermine innovative companies in Canada. The Internet platforms are losers as they comply with an unreasonable law by removing links and making their services objectively worse in order to do so. Individual Canadians who use the platforms to find links to news are losers since news links will be blocked from the platform. And the government is a loser, as having dismissed critics and ignored repeated warnings about the risks associated with its bill, it has now left Canada as the global example of digital policy disastrously gone wrong.  



  1. All of those folks who advised that Alphabet and Meta were bluffing must have been delusional. I figure that the main reason that Australia got away with it was that the companies weren’t ready to reliably implement the blocking with minimal side-effects. However given that there were other countries starting to look at it these companies continued the development of the technology and were ready when C-18 passed; all they needed to do was set up and test the rules in the system.

    In the big scheme of things, the amount of money that these companies get from Canada is low enough that they are willing to forego that because either the fees they would need to pay is too high and/or the trouble is just not worth it, in particular if other countries start to implement it themselves.

    For the government, they get to claim that they are supporting MSM in Canada while it costs them pretty much nothing, and they can get some good press from MSM. Because MSM is so invested in C-18, the number of critical items will be a minimum, just enough to say they’ve cast a critical eye with a straight face.

    • The companies have explained in detail what is different about the Australian law. It has nothing to do with being “ready”.

      • Agreed, but my feeling is that the Australia experience gave the search and SM companies the idea that a capability such as this would be very useful, especially given how many other countries and media groups were watching what happened. As it turns out the Australian government was willing to bend to get the best deal they could and therefore the capability wouldn’t be needed.

        But just because Australia would doesn’t mean that other governments would. This would give an inducement to the companies to develop this capability. The fact that they rolled it out so quickly tells me that it has been under development as a contingency for some time. Now, had the Australian government taken the same approach as the Canadian government, I don’t know what would have happened.

        And don’t forget that this capability is basically a geographic filter based on a subject or target URL, so in concept it could use some of the same capability that they have in order to comply with local laws restricting what the residents of some countries can see.

      • Hugo Weber says:

        Could you please remove such SPAM like the above from “Anne” from your Blog comment section? Thanks.

    • “All of those folks who advised…must have been delusional.”

      No, it’s the Ottawa bubble reality distortion field. The current government Can Do No Wrong and is morally superior to all, so no matter how moronic the idea spewing from the PMO, it gets full support from the sycophant ocean who live in Ottawa.

      Also, Ottawa minions NEVER tell the boss that what they are doing is stupid/wrong/illegal: That is career suicide. It’s always better to say “yes” to the boss no matter how stupid the edict, as if the boss IS wrong and gets kicked to the door there will be another boss coming along soon who wants to hear nothing but “yes” and so the yes-man minion protects their butt/paycheque/pension.

      I grew up in Ottawa. It’s one big lunatic asylum.

      • I live near Ottawa and have been both a public servant and i the private sector in the past, and my wife retired from the PS just a few years ago. There is a kernel of truth to what you said, but I can’t completely agree with it. There are public servants who are willing to say no to the boss, in particular if something that the boss wants to do is wrong or illegal. But in my experience this occurs more at the lower levels rather than the upper levels. It also depends on where the direction came from and where the push back occurs. In fact, I’ve seen it occur.

        The main problem exists in the higher level of the executive ranks. At the lower levels the public servants have union representation to help shield them (if the union chooses to do so). At the level of the executives, in particular at the ADM and DM level, they don’t have any such backup and they are appointed to a position, serving at the pleasure of the PMO. PMs in Canada (and frankly partly leaders in general here) don’t like to be publicly contradicted by their underlings; the news media jumps on this as they can’t control their party members or public servants and then in the next breath bemoans the tight party discipline that the parties have. Don’t forget that in Canada, and in particular in a minority government, the parties are always in campaign mode.

  2. I am curious to see how Australia will deal with this issue they are also in the middel of trying to get a deal from the two big tech companies. This reminds me of the split run magazine debacle in the 90s where a Liberal government implmented Canadian content rules in Americanmagazines sold in Canada that did not last long

    • Australia are not in the middle of trying to get a deal. Both companies are exempt from the Australian law. They negotiated a path to exemption a long time ago, that was what they requested from the Canadian government, so they could avoid unlimited liability. The Canadian government refused. The companies need to know what they need to negotiate with media outlets to reach a point where they are no longer on the hook for even more money. Canada refused to provide such a path.

  3. Watching hedge funds and the great and the good of the Canadian media establishment learn the lessons that every small business in Canada has learned – don’t rely on a platform you don’t own is darkly hilarious. Canadian media has arrogantly decided that 100 year first mover advantage of paper printing means they’re entitled to the same revenue once the world changed. They don’t invest in local content, online community or active email outreach and now the truly painful lesson starts.

    The only thing more delusional is that government – which is terrified of Canadian and interacting with them – could have any relevant expertise in policing how Canadians gather online.

    A pox on all their houses.

    • Absolutely. If links to news media in Canada are so valuable, then you’d think this would leave a big money-making market opportunity in Canada for anyone to jump into! Literally anyone! Could be the media companies themselves. But they are incapable and obsolete, so they cannot do it. And it really isn’t a money-making opportunity at all, so no tech company has any interest.

    • Bill C-18 was about punishing big tech companies for… being successful at what they do. Big MSM in Canada comes in and whines that they don’t get a share of something they opt’d in to. Nobody was forcing them to post their entire articles to Facebook.

      Just like bill C-11, big media whines that they aren’t being paid enough to produce the low-effort content nobody actually wants, so they want youtube to pay them to produce more of it. Like they are the only companies allowed to produce content.

      Since when did the Canadian government do Bell’s bidding? What the government should be doing is forcibly breaking up Bell, Rogers/Shaw, Videotron, Telus and have their internet service assets separated from media assets. Then you will see these media companies forced to produce things people want, or stop sitting on their IP that people actually want to see and license/syndicate it out.

      I’ll vote for whoever says they will undo C-11 and C-18 without trying to “fix” it. Cause these bills are a gift to Bell to loot big tech companies and not compete.

  4. I’m amazed at the restraint of Meta and Google. They’ve focused solely on criticizing the Bill and spelling out its implications. On the other hand, supporters of the Bill have resorted to false claims, name calling, and hyperbole to attack Meta and Google.

    I half expect the Heritage Minister to now say she will hold her breath until those poopyheads at Meta and Google do what she wants.

  5. I don’t use Facebook. I don’t use Google News.

  6. James Cassidy says:

    Most people sitting at home have little else to do but complain. Do not use Facebook for “news”. Do not know anyone who does. Considering the state of Canadian News Organizations it might be a good idea to start culling the herd.

    • Hugo Weber says:

      I am afraid you have not yet fully understood the implications of this new law. Perhaps this will change when Google (with its search engine) stops showing results for canadian news outlets.

      • Google is not the internet. You can still type in cbc.ca. thestar.com. You can use other search engines

        • Old Normal says:

          That’s all the average Canadian will type in. How convenient for the state-run media to control what ‘news’ Canadians read.

    • Elizabeth Pickett says:

      I’ve never used Facebook to get my news either. But I do belong to several Facebook groups where we share news posts and discuss the state of the world and the universe. If we can’t share news links, as many activist groups do, we can no longer have those discussions on that platform. Migrating hundreds of group members to another platform is not practicable.

      • Stephen Bosch says:

        It’s not practicable? Have you even tried? You do realize that there was an Internet before Facebook, right? What do you think people did then?

        You’ve just put your finger on the problem: These platforms got huge by serving people’s intrinsic laziness. People used Facebook for organizing community groups because it was way too easy. And now everybody is hooked.

        When the pain gets big enough, people will figure out alternatives.

  7. Henri Sader says:

    What are the odds of renegotiating a win win win win way out ?

    • No chance. The federal government would either need to completely gut its legislation, thus admitting defeat, or the tech companies would need to bend the knee, which is unlikely given how small Canadian news links are to their business model.

      The Feds took something that was legal and benefitted both tech companies and legacy news media and got greedy. As the expression goes, pigs get fed while hogs get slaughtered, and the federal government decided it wanted to be a hog.

  8. Good Riddance. Social Media should not be the place for news anyway! That’s part of the problem with all the hoaxes and fake news.
    CYA meta, and I’m happier for it.

    • Bruce Harling says:

      I agree

      • Old Normal says:

        Even if the net effect is that the Government controls what news (even international) Canadians are privy to and that independent news is censored? A bit partial to dictatorships are we?

        • Dianne Skoll says:

          I’m not following this line of argument… how does Meta not allowing people to post links make it easier for the government to control what Canadians see? That doesn’t make sense.

    • Hugo Weber says:

      You underestimate the sharing of URLs between private users of FB or Instagram.
      As soon as Google stops showing canadian news outlets in its search engine, this became a real nightmare for the already struggling canadian news industry.

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  31. Gonna have to be honest: seeing that notice on Facebook is one of the best pieces of news I’ve seen in years from the platform. As idiotic as the legislation is, the *result* is terrific: Facebook no longer pushing a news agenda. People will have to actually look up the news themselves. This is good, not bad.

    This bill was, and still is, insane, but the specific outcome in relation to Facebook has been a net positive: Facebook should not be your source for news, because Facebook has put you in a bubble, and will only give you want you want to hear. Now it can’t. That’s a positive development for all Canadians.

  32. I would to see Canadian media collectively try to not to “overstate the harm that Bill C-18 will create for the media sector in Canada, with enormous losses that will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. ”

    It reads like a verbatim copy of a Meta press release. And again the “Small independent media” are used as the show case for it. Isn’t it striking how the BIG TECH always uses The Little Man as their arguments against limiting their enormous reach?

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  35. Is Canadian Bill C-18 greatest thing for tech?

    It may be lose-lose-lose-lose as law professor Michael Geist has said (https://www.michaelgeist.ca/2023/08/metablockslinks/), but as it is right now, my Facebook feed is cleared of any useful information. Am I losing? As an addict, Elon helped me get rid of Twitter and now the de-newsify of Facebook may be helping me to remove the FB app as well.

    If the original purpose of Facebook is to connect/reconnect to my old/high school friends, they have mostly stopped posting on Facebook long ago, many of those groups have moved to WhatsApp, yuck, another Meta product that should never have happened. But what’s now left on my Facebook feed besides the 5 friends that are still posting are either meme pages, feeding me endless programmer jokes; or what I can only call them as KOL ‘key-opinion-leaders’ pages about the politics I’m concerned, that for some reason never wanted to leave FB even with random account suspensions.

    With FB possibly doing a self-destruction (they won’t care about those small population Canadians, as many have suggested, which is why it is good), the time is now for the two biggest internet-era monopolies be broken. Users may finally try a decentralized social media app like Mastodon that you can control; and will Google decide to ‘unfollow’ and stop indexing Canadian news to leave room for Bing/ChatGPT to squeeze back into relevancy?

    Back to the original statement. If FB lose, I’m super happy. Media? They haven’t won in decades anyway and they are the one gambling and disrupting the force so good for them. Will Canada and Canadian lose in this mess? I hope not but I’m winning already.

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  47. With news links blocked, the news ecosystem in Canada may undergo significant changes.