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3 months with news blocked on Facebook; Bill C-18 negotiations ongoing

It’s almost been three months since Facebook blocked Canadian news content from its platform.

The decision was made in retaliation for the Federal Government passing Bill C-18, which would require digital platforms with over 1 billion users to spread some of their ad revenue to Canadian news outlets who provide content for the platform. The way the legislation was laid out, the criteria only affected the platforms of Google and Facebook-owner Meta.

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford’s New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Parliament Alistair MacGregor says this is a time to stand firm against the tech giants in negotiations.

“I would argue that the Liberals have not used all of powers that they have to push back against the hard bargaining tactics of social media companies,” says MacGregor. “While they did commit to removing Federal government advertising dollars from Meta and Google, they could also push back using a provision in the income tax act that allows for advertising on internet delivered media to be a deductible expense. The Liberals could push back on that because that’s sort of an indirect subsidy to Google and Meta.”

MacGregor says there is concern that the absence of credible, fact-checked news sources on large social platforms can allow less credible sources to fill their space.

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“That is a concern that we have to keep our eye on,” he says. “I think we all know there are some extreme dangers on the online space with disinformation and misinformation that can be rapidly shared. We’re still looking forward to this issue being solved in negotiating.”

He says negotiations between the federal government and Meta continue, and the hope is that the two sides can come to an agreement before the bill comes into full-effect at the end of this year.

“It’s an extremely tough situation,” he says. “But at some point we have to stand up to the ‘big tech’ giants in much the same way that Australia did. They went through this same process with their own version of legislation.

“We still have a couple of months left before C-18 comes into force. I know that there are some active negotiations going on. We hope that the Liberals will hold fast and make sure that they’re pushing for as fair a deal as possible for Canada’s news organizations.”

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