Meta Tests Blocking News Content on Instagram and Facebook – According to the tech giant, Meta, it is conducting a temporary test that involves blocking certain Canadian users from accessing news content on Facebook and Instagram. This test is expected to continue until the end of June. This action mirrors a previous move made by Google earlier this year.
The purpose of this block is a response to a proposed bill, known as Bill C-18 or the Online News Act, which seeks to mandate that tech giants compensate publishers for using their content online, such as linking to or repurposing it. The bill is currently under consideration in the Senate and may be approved as early as this month.
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Additionally, Meta has expressed its willingness to permanently block news content on Facebook and Instagram for Canadians if the bill is passed. Meta’s recent action has been criticized by Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who expressed his disappointment and stated that Canadians will not be intimidated by such tactics.
The temporary block, announced on Thursday, will impact a portion of Meta’s 24 million Canadian users, ranging from 1% to 5%, and the number of affected users will vary throughout the duration of the test. Rachel Curran, the head of public policy for Meta Canada, provided this information. During this test, randomly selected Canadian users will be unable to view or share news content on Facebook or Instagram within Canada.
The block may encompass various forms of news content, including links to articles, reels (short-form videos), and stories (photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours). Additionally, international news organizations like the New York Times or BBC could also face content restrictions in Canada if they are randomly chosen as part of the test.
As part of the ongoing test, Meta has stated that it will randomly select news publishers and inform them that certain users in Canada will be unable to view or share their news content. However, users will still retain access to their accounts, pages, business suites, and advertising functionalities.
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The proposed bill has garnered praise from traditional media outlets and broadcasters, as it aims to promote fairness in the digital news market and provide financial support to struggling newsrooms. Tech giants like Meta and Google have previously faced criticism for disrupting and dominating the advertising industry, overshadowing smaller, conventional players.
Meta, headquartered in Menlo Park, California, has taken similar actions in the past. In 2021, it temporarily blocked news content from its platform in Australia following the passage of legislation that required tech companies to compensate publishers for utilizing their news articles. Subsequently, Meta reached agreements with Australian publishers to address the issue.