Facebook’s Blocking of News Links in Australia ‘Irresponsible’: Guilbeault

February 19, 2021 Updated: February 19, 2021

OTTAWA—Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault says Facebook won’t intimidate Canada out of pushing online giants to pay Canadian media companies for content.

The company has blocked users in Australia from posting or seeing links to local or international news websites in protest of the Australian government’s plans to make social−media companies negotiate payments to publishers there.

Guilbeault calls Facebook’s move “highly irresponsible,” since it has restricted Australians’ access to important information such as crisis hotlines and news about forest fires. But he says he’s carrying on with plans for a federal bill on compensation for news links, to be introduced this spring.

Google has reached a voluntary deal with Australian publishers, which Guilbeault says could be scrapped at any time if Google changes its mind.

Facebook says links users posted last year led to 5.1 billion visits to Australian publishers’ sites, traffic worth hundreds of millions of dollars.