News Broadcasters and Publishers Call for Competition Bureau to Investigate Meta’s Blocking of Canadian News

News Broadcasters and Publishers Call for Competition Bureau to Investigate Meta’s Blocking of Canadian News
Meta Platforms Inc.'s logo is seen on a smartphone in an illustration picture taken on Oct. 28, 2021. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)
Matthew Horwood

CBC/Radio-Canada, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, and News Media Canada have applied to Canada’s Competition Bureau to investigate Meta’s decision to block news content from its online platforms in Canada.

“Meta’s practices are clearly designed to discipline Canadian news companies, prevent them from participating in and accessing the advertising market, and significantly reduce their visibility to Canadians on social media channels,” the organizations said in a press release.

“Meta’s anticompetitive conduct, which has attracted the attention of regulators around the world, will strengthen its already dominant position in advertising and social media distribution and harm Canadian journalism.”

On August 1, social media giant Meta said it would officially begin ending news availability on its platforms in Canada following the passage of the Online News Act (Bill C-18) in June. The law requires that big tech giants negotiate deals with and pay Canadian media outlets for any of the news and information linked on their platforms.

On June 29, Google announced it would be removing links to Canadian news from its Search, News, and Discover products, saying the legislation was “unworkable” and that Ottawa had failed to give assurances that the regulatory process would be able to resolve structural issues in the legislation.

According to the news organizations, Meta controls more than 70 percent of the online social media market in Canada through Facebook and Instagram. “Through its decision to block news content from its digital platforms, Meta seeks to impair Canadian news organizations’ ability to compete effectively in the news publishing and online advertising markets,” they said in the joint statement.

The organizations argued Meta’s conduct would diminish Canadian news consumers’ exposure to news content, therefore impairing news organizations’ ability to compete for revenue from online advertising and their readers.

They have asked Canada’s Competition Bureau to use its investigative and prosecutorial tools to protect competition and prohibit Meta from continuing to block Canadians’ access to news content. They also requested Meta refrain from “discriminating, by algorithm or by any other means,” against content from Canadian news organizations on its online platforms in Canada.

“If Meta is allowed to proceed unchecked, it could inflict significant damage to Canadian news organizations’ ability to offer quality news services to Canadians, which is critical to the functioning of a free and democratic society.”

In a statement to the Epoch Times, the Competition Bureau of Canada said it has received the complaint and is monitoring the developments closely.

“The Bureau is gathering information to consider whether this conduct may fall under the Competition Act, including ways that this specific conduct may harm competition,” said spokesperson John Power.

Mr. Power also said it would be “inappropriate” to speculate or comment on whether Meta’s conduct may raise concerns under the Competition Act.

“We must conduct a thorough and complete examination of the facts before reaching any conclusion as to whether the Competition Act has been contravened,” he said.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include remarks from the Competition Bureau of Canada.