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Owner Meta Platforms Inc. has warned Canada that it stands ready to block the relaying of Canadian news content — as it did in Australia last year — unless the Liberal government changes laws that would force big digital companies to shut down domestic media to compensate.
The legislation is currently under review by a parliamentary committee, and lawmakers this week voted to stop hearing more testimony. Facebook said it was not given an opportunity to testify, so it issued a statement late Friday outlining the company’s concerns about Canada’s proposed rules – and a warning.
“In the face of adverse laws based on false assumptions that contradict the logic of how Facebook works, we think it’s important to be transparent about the possibility that we might be forced to investigate whether we allow news content sharing in Canada.” continue to allow,” said Marc Dinsdale, head of media partnership at Meta’s Canadian unit.
Canada’s Minister for Cultural Policy, Pablo Rodriguez, said in a statement officials had discussions with Facebook just last week “yet they continue to pull from their playbook used in Australia”. He added, “All we ask of tech giants like Facebook is to negotiate fair deals with news outlets when they benefit from their work.” In testimony before lawmakers on Friday, Mr Rodriguez said that the survival of Canada’s news business without the bill is at stake.
Facebook’s announcement to Canada could spark the kind of high-stakes battle that unfolded in Australia last year over the same issue of compensation for media outlets. Facebook’s move in Australia to block messages on its platform ended after five days, when the company and the government reached a deal in which officials agreed to relax regulations that would effectively require a payment in exchange for the restoration of Content required by the social media company. Facebook’s tactics have drawn criticism from lawmakers around the world.
In addition to Facebook documents and witness statements filed in the US, the social media company has also removed pages from Australian hospitals, ambulance services and charities, while blocking news content, according to Australian authorities. Facebook officials said it was accidental and due to a technical error.
Rachel Curran, Meta’s public policy director in Canada, said Meta told government officials about the alert on Saturday before posting it on a company blog. She said blocking news content “is really not our preferred outcome and we’re not issuing that as a threat. We don’t want to get into a position where we need to think or talk about removing messages from the platform.”
Earlier this year, Canada, citing the Australian model, introduced legislation that would require digital platforms to enter into “fair trade deals” with news publishers, which include print, digital and broadcast outlets. If negotiations do not result in an agreement, the law requires both sides to enter into binding arbitration to determine equitable compensation.
Canada’s parliamentary budget watchdog estimates the legislation could generate about $240 million a year in revenue for media companies, with broadcasters due for three-quarters of the amount.
Meta said Canadian law presumes the company unfairly benefits from its relationship with publishers, “when in fact the opposite is true.” According to Meta, Canadian news publishers are choosing to share links and other content from their sites on Facebook to reach a wider audience, and estimate it translates into nearly $170 million worth of free marketing a year.
The company said the legislation would require Meta “to accept a system that allows publishers to charge us for as much content as they want to deliver, at a price with no clear limits.” No company can work like that.”
Owner of The Wall Street Journal, has a commercial agreement to provide news through Facebook. Meta has informed publishers in the US that they will not renew contracts to publish their content on their Facebook News tab.
Michael Geist, a professor of internet law at the University of Ottawa and a critic of the state’s online news legislation, said lawmakers need to address some of the shortcomings Meta cited. “What matters is that the bill threatens the free flow of information on the Internet by enshrining in law the principle that enabling links to information is something that must be paid for,” he said.
write to Paul Vieira at [email protected]
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