Major search and social platforms are cracking down on Canada’s Online News Act.
In a show of force, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has banned Canadian users from news content on Instagram.
The controversial law aims to force tech companies like Google and Facebook to pay news publishers fair compensation for using their content.
Google and Meta claim the law is unenforceable and amounts to an “internet link tax.”
The Canadian government hoped for a compromise
The Canadian government was probably hoping that the threat of regulation would bring tech companies to the negotiating table.
However, Meta exposes the government’s bluff by blocking access to messages instead of complying with laws it deems unfair.
Google also plans to remove news links, stories and more for Canadians from Search, Google News and Discover.
For news publishers struggling in the digital age, losing traffic and visibility on these dominant platforms could be detrimental.
The Canadian government argues the law is necessary to support independent journalism. In a statement, Culture Minister Pablo Rodriguez called Meta’s actions “unreasonable” and “irresponsible.”
While talks with Google are ongoing, Rodriguez has halted all government advertising on Facebook and Instagram.
Support for journalism or internet tax?
There are reasonable arguments on both sides. News publishers deserve support and fair compensation for the value they bring to platforms. However, the regulation of internet links and snippets requires a lot of work to implement and enforce.
For SEO and content professionals, this cross-industry conflict highlights the power dynamics in today’s attention economy.
News publishers have little choice but to appear on major social platforms, even as companies like Facebook change their algorithms and policies without notice.
This situation highlights the need to diversify revenue and distribution to reduce dependency on a single company.
While traffic and subscriptions from Google and social media remain crucial, publishers would benefit from strengthening direct relationships with readers and exploring alternative business models.
The Online News Act is Canada’s attempt to give the news media more leverage, but tech companies seem poised to hold their own.
The coming months will prove crucial as Canada works to finalize and enforce regulations that will not result in news links being removed from search and social media.
There are no easy answers to the question of how to reconcile the promotion of journalism with an open Internet. But for Canadians, the possibility of losing access to news on the web’s most popular platforms shows how much influence they have ceded to Meta and Google.
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