The reach of Canadian news outlets on the internet — including the Gazette — is dwindling.
Tech giants Google and Meta have announced their decision to block Canadian news content from their platforms in response to Canada’s Bill C-18, otherwise known as the Online News Act. The law passed through the Senate on June 22 and mandates tech giants to compensate news outlets for the content shared on their platform.
This move will impact not only the likes of the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star, but also small independent media and student newspapers such as the Gazette.
Lisa Macklem, a current PhD candidate in the Faculty of Law at Western University with a focus on the entertainment industry and digital content delivery, explained Bill C-18 is also commonly referred to as a “link tax” where anyone linking to news sites will pay a fee that will go towards Canadian media outlets.
Though the Act is intended to “support news businesses to secure fair compensation,” as stated on the federal government’s explanatory webpage, Meta and Google have continually argued the only feasible option for their respective business models is to cut Canadian news from their platforms entirely.
“The Online News Act is based on a fundamentally flawed premise,” said Nick Clegg, Meta’s President of Global Affairs in a statement on May 8.
“Meta does not benefit unfairly from people sharing links to news content on our platform,” he said, pointing to the service Meta provides to publishers — including driving traffic to news outlets’ websites — and the platform’s main purpose not being news.
Immediately following the Act becoming law in June, Meta tested blocking news content on five per cent of Canadian users on Facebook and Instagram.
In response, the federal government and Quebec government said they would suspend all advertising on the two platforms, though Liberal Party advertisements are still active.
On Aug. 1, Meta announced they “have begun the process of ending news availability in Canada,” and would implement the changes over the coming weeks. This means individual users in Canada will no longer have the ability to view, post or repost news content.
When blocked users attempt to view news outlets’ profiles on Instagram or Facebook, they are met with a message that reads, “people in Canada can’t see this content” and cannot view previously published content.
Former federal heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez said Meta’s new social media platform Threads “could be” regulated under the Act as well, but the situation would be more certain after going into the regulatory process.
On June 29, Google released a statement that links to Canadian news will be removed from its Search, News and Discover products when the law comes into effect by the end of year. Google recommends Canadians navigate directly to their preferred news outlets’ websites.
Dr. Anabel Quan-Haase, associate dean of the Faculty of Information and Media Studies told the Gazette the ramifications of the Bill will be significant.
“Our understanding of the world will be really narrowed down by us being exposed to more mis and disinformation because a lot of the trustworthy news will be oppressed,” Quan-Haase said.
If students utilize a Google search for their next paper or research project, the search will not return news originating from Canada and they “will no longer be able to get the full spectrum of the stories and the information that we need,” Quan-Haase explained.
She emphasized that users must be aware of the algorithms these tech giants use, as well as the type and origin of content they are consuming.
Macklem and Quan-Haase both pointed to the Bill resulting in a lack of access to Canada-specific news — a particular threat to students.
“If you can’t find a Canadian answer, you may get an American answer; [one from the] UK, Australia, India [or] China,” Macklem said in reference to students’ research for their classes.
Despite recent moves by Meta and Google, newsrooms across Canada have promised to keep reporting and updating news on their websites, apps and newsletters.
Source : WESTERNGAZETTE