Local cross-border audiences in limbo as news blackout in Canada hits

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NEWPORT — Media outlets in border communities such as Orleans County, are now cut off from followers just north of the border, as tech giant Meta rolls out its dramatic measure of blocking news content across Canada. The decision is set to impact the ability of these publishers to engage with their Canadian audiences.

Starting today, Facebook and Instagram, Meta’s prominent platforms, are restricting Canadian users from viewing or sharing news links, along with broadcaster videos and photos.

This bold move from Meta, previously teased for several months, is projected to be fully effective within a few weeks for all Canadian users.

As per the company’s official statement, “In response to the Online News Act, content from global news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will not be available to people accessing Facebook and Instagram in Canada.” This disruptive change is also set to impede the dynamics of cross-border news dissemination.

The central motivation behind Meta’s radical decision lies in the Canadian legislature’s approval of the Online News Act. This law necessitates certain platforms to negotiate revenue-sharing agreements with news organizations, a move designed to alleviate the longstanding struggles of news outlets with plummeting advertising revenue, largely attributed to the rise of online services.

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The Online News Act also gives the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) unprecedented, sweeping new powers to regulate every aspect of the Canadian news industry. The CRTC would be responsible for determining who is a journalist, what is an eligible news business, and how much money will be directed to each entity.

It would oversee and govern all negotiations between the news publishers and technology companies, including setting mandatory terms, while also resolving any resulting disputes and having the power to issue penalties.

“The bottom line is that the CRTC would have enormous power when regulating the news Canadians rely on, with few if any checks and balances,” a statement from Google regarding their concerns of the Online News Act reads.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reports that Facebook and Google together capture roughly 80 percent of digital advertising revenue. Google has also disclosed plans to prevent Canadian users from accessing news story links on several of its platforms in response to the new legislation.

Previously in 2021, Meta had similarly restricted news content in Australia. However, under pressure, Meta, Google, and other platforms eventually relented, arriving at a consensus to compensate Australian publishers for posting news links and snippets.

As Meta begins its news blackout in Canada, news organizations along the border, such as Newport Dispatch, are tasked with finding innovative ways to continue serving their audiences.

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