Instagram notification re: Bill C18

Instagram notification re: Bill C18


Why Is Meta Blocking All News Links? Because Bill C-18 Covers All News Outlets

Blocking of news links on Facebook and Instagram in Canada has becomes increasingly widespread in recent days, leading to a growing number of public comments from media outlets and reporters expressing surprise or shock about the scope of the link blocking. Indeed, outlets with blocked links include university student newspapers, radio stations, and foreign news outlets. While there may have been some errors (Facebook has a page to seek review of any blocked link decision), the inclusion of a very wide range of Canadian and foreign news outlets is no accident. Rather, it reflects the government’s Bill C-18 approach, which effectively covers all news outlets worldwide whose links are accessed in Canada. The Canadian government could have adopted a more targeted approach – for example, limiting the scope to news links from those news outlets eligible to negotiate agreements with Internet platforms under the law – but it instead went for the broadest possible approach that includes foreign news outlets with little or no connection to Canada.

Understanding why Bill C-18 covers news links from outlets who are not “eligible news businesses” under the law requires unpacking several provisions. First, start with the definition of a “digital news intermediary”, which states:

digital news intermediary means an online communications platform, including a search engine or social media service, that is subject to the legislative authority of Parliament and that makes news content produced by news outlets available to persons in Canada. It does not include an online communications platform that is a messaging service the primary purpose of which is to allow persons to communicate with each other privately.‍ 

This definition is critical since the only companies that are subject to Bill C-18’s requirement to negotiate agreements with news outlets are (1) those that qualify as DNIs under this definition and (2) meet the requirements found in Section 6 on a significant bargaining power imbalance. The absence of significant bargaining power imbalance is why companies such as Twitter, Microsoft or Apple are not subject to the law. That leaves Google and Meta, provided that they qualify as DNIs. The key phrase in the qualification requirement is that the companies “make news content produced by news outlets available to persons in Canada.” If the companies do not make news content produced by news outlets available to persons in Canada they are not DNIs and are not subject to the law.

So what does “make news content produced by news outlets available to persons in Canada” mean? First, making news available includes:

(a) the news content, or any portion of it, is reproduced; or

(b) access to the news content, or any portion of it, is facilitated by any means, including an index, aggregation or ranking of news content.

Government officials have confirmed that facilitation by any means includes linking to the news content.

Since linking is sufficient for the purposes of making news content available, the remaining two relevant definitions involve “news content” and “news outlet.” News content is defined as:

content — in any format, including an audio or audiovisual format — that reports on, investigates or explains current issues or events of public interest and includes such content that an Indigenous news outlet makes available by means of Indigenous storytelling.‍

This broad definition covers all news content in any format, which helps explain why everything from newspapers to podcasts are covered by the law.

Second, a news outlet: 

means an undertaking or any distinct part of an undertaking whose primary purpose is to produce news content and includes an Indigenous news outlet or an official language minority community news outlet.‍

This notably does not limit the geographical scope of news outlets, which means the news content that a DNI makes available through linking can come from any news outlet anywhere the world. The law includes a separate definition for “eligible news business” (defined at Section 27), which are news outlets that qualify for the law’s negotiation and arbitration system. The government could have provided that DNI’s “make news content produced by eligible news businesses available to persons in Canada.” If it had done so, only links to news from eligible news businesses would result in an Internet platform being treated as a DNI. The news link blocking would have therefore been limited to eligible news business content and left alone most foreign news links and some Canadian news outlets.

Yet the government’s choice was to try to bring Meta and Google into the scope of the law by virtue of any news links to any news outlet anywhere in the world, even if those outlets have nothing to do with Canada or with the Bill C-18 system. Given Meta’s stated goal of complying with Bill C-18 by removing links to news content that would render it a DNI, the government’s legislative choice of covering all news links from all news outlets therefore effectively requires it to block all of those news links. 


  1. Dear Lord.

    So Google will have to remove *all* news links from its search results if they don’t want to be subject to C-18? That’s bananas.

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  2. Michael

    The Nationalist activist controlled this file right from the beginning with the Peter Grant report. Guilbault and his successor enhanced the containts of the report with a new source of subsidy for CBC and other media.

    What they did not appreciate if you are going to a knife fight make sure you can win. The Gov did not realize the other side had the more power and that they would loose this fight.


    • I agree!

    • I suggest that the “other side” didn’t really have any more “power”. They had no power at all: The government could have implemented whatever legislation they wanted and the “other side” would have had to follow it. And, they did!

      What really happened is that the Trudeau government GAVE the “other side” the perfect out: All the “other side” had to do was say “no, we won’t play that game” and they were just fine: There was no fight because the “other side” knew the only way to win was not to play.

      That just demonstrates the utter ineptitude of this government.

  3. Hmm. So in essence they explicitly exclude some news organizations from requiring agreements, while at the same time if news from them is presented Google, Meta, etc, are designated as DNIs.

    For instance, because Rebel News was denied “qualified Canadian journalism organization” designation under 248(1) Income Tax Act when they applied for it, they don’t qualify under C-18, section 27(1)(a) for “eligible news business” designation. However if Google, Meta, etc, carried links to Rebel News then they would be designated as a DNI.

  4. Have the conservatives disclosed plans with regard to C-11 and C-18 should they form the next government? Are they planning to roll back the legislation?

  5. Keith Cowan says:

    I was trying to post a link to the LA Times about Robbie Robertson yesterday. For my friends from Puerto Vallarta. No way. Being Canadian became a real liability for us poor slobs who use FB.

  6. I can’t even post this blog post to my Facebook feed because it is blocked too.

    The other thought I had for how this bill could be less insane was to state that the law impacts DNIs subject to the authority of Parliament and also News Orgs subject to the authority of Parliament. At least that is somewhat coherent. But the way the law is written, Canada demands that Facebook and Meta have revenue sharing agreements with news orgs in the UK, US, if Canadians can see that content.

    Maybe this why Pablo Rodriguez says the world is watching Canada on this issue? haha.

    Was the poor construction of this bill stupidity or intentional?

    I have emailed my MP twice and no acknowledgement of my email from him and his office.

    • John Tillotson says:

      If your MP is Liberal or NDP, you have to include a cheque if you want a letter to be read or taken seriously.


      “…Canada’s 2022 score of 74 is the endpoint of a slow decline from its score of 84 in 2012, when the current version of the Index was introduced.”

    • Do not email your MP, write a paper letter.

      Also, MPs that do not respond to their constituents need replacing. Remember that come next election.

    • Re: “Canada demands that Facebook and Meta have revenue sharing agreements with news orgs in the UK, US, if Canadians can see that content.”

      Actually – no. Most of those organizations would not qualify as a journalism organization, due to a number of constraints in the bill. Even Rebel News did not qualify.

      But although you would need agreements with qualified journalism organizations, you become a designated news intermediary if facilitate news access for a Canadian.

      So – linking to the BBC means you must make a deal with the CBC.

      • If you are correct, that is incredibly stupid. Why should Google have to pay CBC if they provided a link to BBC?
        Also, other articles by Geist agree with my assessment.

        • You have it right – it is stupid.

          I reread the bill and from what I can tell *any* facilitation of news makes either Meta or Google a DNI. And since there are no special exemptions for paid advertising this means something potentially even more stupid.

          It likely means that a news organization will not be able to buy ads on Facebook or Google that are seen by Canadians.

          I don’t see any way around this. If the Toronto Star purchased a Facebook ad, and this ad included a link, and it can be seen by Canadians, then that satisfies the key criteria of a Designated News Intermediary.

          The really bizarre part is that, depending on the interpretation, Canadian news organizations might end up not being able to buy ads even for non-Canadians, since this might trigger on the other criteria, such as “indexing”.

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  9. Yes. It is bananas. Bill C-18 is bananas.

    • The Trudeau government is bananas. Whatever party that pledges to repeal this fiasco will have my vote.

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  11. Alison Malis says:

    Why is Bing not subject to bill C-18.

    • Tom Glanville says:

      that fact feels like it should be anti-constitutional or illegal to single out some companies for different treatment like that.

      • They didn’t specifically target Google or Meta in the bill. They just decided that Microsoft didn’t meet the necessary criteria (from the bill):

        6 This Act applies in respect of a digital news intermediary if, having regard to the following factors, there is a significant bargaining power imbalance between its operator and news businesses:

        (a) the size of the intermediary or the operator;

        (b) whether the market for the intermediary gives the operator a strategic advantage over news businesses; and

        (c) whether the intermediary occupies a prominent market position.

        Personally I would think it is more defensible if they hadn’t made that distinction. I don’t know, but if Google and Meta decide to challenge the law as a result of this section then I would think they may have a case… What the SCoC decides, on the other hand, is only a matter of speculation. But given the way that decisions have gone over the past few years they may well decide in the government’s favour.

  12. Because C-18 was carefully crafted to only include Meta and Google.

  13. How does bill C-18 compare to what Australia did?

    • Alison Malis says:

      read all of the other posts by Dr. Geist on this blog in chronological order. It’s all in there

  14. I’m beyond angry at this. I’m a dual citizen of Canada and the United States who now lives in Canada. One of my primary methods of staying informed about the news back in my home state was through Facebook. Now I’m not able to view any of those news outlets. I can no longer interact with and comment on American news stories and sources on Facebook. I did not realize the implementation of this was going to include news sources outside of Canada. I’ve tried several workarounds (VPN, and also just simply deleting the location where I live from my Facebook profile), but nothing works. It was one thing to screw with my access to Canadian news sources (annoying, but tolerable, because living in Canada means I’m surrounded by various sources of Canadian news most of the time), but screwing with my access to U.S. news sources and other international sources is a huge blow, and incredibly intrusive. I did not ask for this – as a Canadian, OR as an American.

    • Really? Facebook isn’t where *anyone* should be going for news. It’s a social platform, not a news source. If you want reliable news you should be seeking it out at it’s source. Go directly to the websites of the news organisations that you trust in the area that you want to see the news from.

      While I completely agree that Pablo and the Liberals have royally fucked the news industry with C-18 I have little sympathy for those that are running around thinking news no longer exists because of it because they think that Facebook is the place they should be going to get reliable, trustworthy news. It’s. Not.

      • Alison Malis says:

        Why not? I follow the media pages I choose to follow and get links from there. What is unreliable about that? It’s convenience more than anything else. Are you then suggesting that a post on, say, the National Post FB page has somehow been tampered with and that it’s unreliable. I know you’re not saying that but you didn’t really think your little diatribe through. There is nothing “unreliable” about news links posted on FB by said news outlets. Now, if your comment was framed thusly: Facebook comments isn’t where *anyone* should be going for news…” that might be more logical. Maybe. Not really though.

        • You are 100% correct Alison. All the news orgs have FB pages and if you click “like” on them or follow them, their content shows up in your feed. You click the Local CTV news story in your FB timeline, it takes you to CTV to read the story and the Canadian guv wants FB to pay CTV for sending a customer to the CTV website. Laughable.

          • Indeed. If you take this to it’s logical extreme the news organizations start hiring minimum wage workers just to post thousands and thousands of news story links to their own news sites every day just to collect revenue on them. How is that fair?

            That’s the kind of insanity the completely demonstrates how totally misguided this legislation is.

    • You didn’t ask for this, but basically the lobbyists for the big news media companies did, and it blew up in their faces. While big news media isn’t legally able to contribute to political campaigns in the form of funding, they can do so in the form of either positive coverage, or self-censoring what would otherwise be negative coverage, of a party. The Liberals I believe were hoping that by passing this the latter would occur, especially given the ethical issues that they’ve had over the years. It also has the impact of reducing the value of the smaller remaining news outlets, so if TorStar, PostMedia, etc, decide to they could purchase the smaller outlets at a reduced price and further reduce the competition in the field.

      Note as well that this blog may be construed as constituting “news content” (see the bill for the definition of “news content” and “news outlet”) and so publishing links to this blog could be impacted; this would have the impact of reducing the ability to find critical coverage.

      • Alison Malis says:

        This blog must be construed as constituting “news content” because it’s been blocked as posting a linked in a few places I’ve seen.

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