Meta ends news availability for Canadians

2nd August 2023
The Public Media Alliance joins its member, CBC/Radio-Canada, and other Canadian news entities in urging the social network to reverse its decision.
Facebook on smartphone
Woman holds smart phone with facebook application on the screen. facebook is a photo-sharing app for smartphones. Credit: Jirapong Manustrong /


  • Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram – two of the largest social networks in Canada – has ended news availability for all Canadians.
  • It comes after the Canadian government passed the Online News Act into law in June, forcing Meta to pay news providers for hosting their content.
  • Meta said that the government falsely argues “that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, when the reverse is true”.
  • Media organisations and government officials have described Meta’s move as “irresponsible”.


This move will have significant repercussions for news providers and audiences across Canada. It will restrict users’ access to trusted sources of news and verified information at a time when social media is increasingly used to access news content.  It will also prolong the crisis facing many outlets, whose revenue has suffered a dramatic downturn over the previous two decades, partly due to Google and Facebook’s dominance over marketing revenues.


Meta, the parent company of two of the largest social media platforms in Canada, has “begun the process” of ending the availability of news content on its networks. In a statement announcing the decision, Meta said “News links and content posted by news publishers and broadcasters in Canada will no longer be viewable by people in Canada.”

The decision is a response to the Bill C-18 Online News Act – a piece of legislation passed by Canada’s federal government earlier this year – which followed Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code in ordering tech platforms to pay news providers for their content.

Posts and website links from international news outlets will also be restricted for Canadian users. It is predicted the restrictions will come into effect within weeks.

Long-standing threat realised

Meta has threatened to remove news content for over a year, but in June, after the bill became law, the company announced they would be “conducting product tests to help us build an effective product solution to end news availability.”

As a result of this threat, the company faced a boycott, with major stakeholders pulling their ads from the platforms, from the British Columbia government to public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada. Additionally, the Inter American Press Association called on both Facebook and Google (which has also threatened to turn off its news function in Canada) to undertake a “prompt reconsideration” of its policies.

Yet this has not deterred the platform. In its statement, it described as “the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, when the reverse is true. News outlets voluntarily share content on Facebook and Instagram to expand their audiences and help their bottom line. In contrast, we know the people using our platforms don’t come to us for news.”

“Irresponsible” and “undemocratic”

Meta has faced widespread criticism for how the decision will impact access to information for Canadian citizens.

“Meta’s move to deny Canadians access to domestic sources of trusted news and verified information — especially at a time when Canadians are depending on it to stay safe from the harmful effects of unprecedented weather events across much of the country — is irresponsible and an abuse of their market power,” said CBC/Radio-Canada.

“Without access to real fact-based news created by real journalists, Facebook will become far less attractive to users and advertisers,” said Paul Deegan, the President of News Media Canada, according to the Toronto Star. “We expect more and more advertisers and their agencies will begin pulling advertising from the platform in response to this unilateral, undemocratic, and unreasonable move.”

Canada’s new Heritage Minister, Pascale St-Onge, described Meta’s actions as “irresponsible” and accused them of not participating in the “regulatory process.”

“They would rather block their users from accessing good quality and local news instead of paying their fair share to news organizations.”

Global repercussions

Ms. St-Onge also said Meta was also trying to “send a message” to other jurisdictions who are looking to impose similar requirements.

Australia – the first country to push through a similar law in 2021 – was also threatened, before Meta then acquiesced after changes were made to the legislation.

But given the widespread ambition to adopt similar bills elsewhere around the world – New Zealand, the UK and the US were mentioned by Ms. St-Onge, as well as Malaysia, Brazil, and a host of other countries – it is evident this more hard-line approach is intended to deter governments from seeing through such bills.

Threats have already been made by Meta in California, where the California Journalism Preservation Act is similar in scope to Canada’s Online News Act.

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The Public Media Alliance secretariat stands in solidarity with its members, CBC/Radio-Canada and TVO, as well as all other Canadian news media whose news content – as a consequence of this decision – will no longer be present on Facebook and Instagram.

This decision exemplifies an abdication of responsibility when considering Meta’s role in providing news to audiences. Social media is the most common way for audiences to access news, rather than going to a news provider directly. In Canada, according to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s Digital News Report 2023, Meta’s platforms are ranked first, fourth and fifth when it comes to the use of social media to access news.

Even though Meta is privately-owned and commercially-driven, it bears a responsibility to its users to ensure they can access independent and quality information. This is particularly critical when considering the level of mis- and disinformation that circulates on these platforms. Public interest journalism acts as a counter to so-called ‘fake news’. The prospect of these platforms being without any independent and verified news is deeply concerning.

Moreover, Meta has an obligation to the news providers themselves, which is in essence, what the legislation is intended to recognise. Since their emergence two decades ago, “Google and Facebook earn 80% of all digital advertising revenue”, Minister St-Onge said. Prior to that, this revenue was shared more widely amongst publishers.

This concentration of revenue has led to a dramatic decline in funding for news providers, and this phenomenon – leading to the creation of local news deserts – is global. In the UK, a 70 percent decline in advertising revenue contributed to the closure of 320 local titles between 2009-2019. In the US, one fifth of the country live without a local news source, or with one at risk of closing, or with only one local news source. Newspapers are reportedly closing at the rate of two per week. Meanwhile in Canada, more than 50 local news outlets closed between 2020 and 2023, while over 3,000 editorial positions were axed.

When access to news and information is limited, democracy suffers. Meta needs to recognise and uphold the critical role it plays in facilitating the provision of news from provider to audience. For the sake of democracy, it must re-engage in discussions with the Canadian government and restore the availability of trusted and verified news services for all users.