Canadian Publishers Ask Antitrust Regulator to Investigate Meta’s Decision to Block News Access

Meta started blocking news on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada last week in response to a law requiring tech giants to pay publishers.

Canadian Publishers Ask Antitrust Regulator to Investigate Meta’s Decision to Block News Access

Photo Credit: Reuters

Meta has said users do not come to its platform for news

Highlights
  • The Online News Act became law in June but has not yet come into effect
  • Meta denies that it benefits unfairly from publishing news content
  • Canada's media industry has called for tighter regulation of tech giants
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Canadian news industry groups on Tuesday asked the country's antitrust regulator to investigate Meta Platforms' decision to block news on its platforms in the country, accusing the Facebook parent of abusing its dominant position.

Meta started blocking news on its Facebook and Instagram platforms for all users in Canada last week in response to a law requiring internet giants to pay for news articles.

Canada's Online News Act, part of a global trend to make tech firms pay for news, became law in June but has not yet come into effect. The government is finalizing rules that would require the platforms to share some advertising revenue when the law is implemented by the end of this year.

"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," news industry groups said in an application with Canada's Competition Bureau.

The application was filed by industry bodies News Media Canada and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, along with public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada, and asks the Competition Bureau to investigate Meta and stop it from blocking news.

"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," the applicants said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the Competition Bureau confirmed that it had received a complaint from Canadian news industry groups and that it was in the process of conducting a preliminary review of the matter.

"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," the spokesperson said.

A Meta spokesperson referred to a statement issued last week, in which the company said the Canadian law was based on "the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms."

Meta has said users do not come to its platform for news and forcing the company to pay for content shared on its platforms is unsustainable for its business.

Ottawa has said the company has no obligation under the law right now and accused Meta of refusing to partake in discussions while final rules are being drafted.

Canada's media industry had called for tighter regulation of internet giants to allow news businesses to recoup financial losses suffered in the years that Facebook and Alphabet-owned Google gained a greater share of the online advertising market. Google has also said it will block news in Canada by the time the rules come into effect.

© Thomson Reuters 2023


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