Bill C-18, the Online News Act, aka “An Act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada,” has been passed by the House of Commons and Senate and signed into law.
Now, finally, after desperate demands from Canada’s news media, big tech companies like Meta (Facebook) and Alphabet (Google) will be required to compensate them for use of their news content.
Instead, Meta has already announced that it will choose to block access to Canadian news content on its platforms (including Facebook and Instagram), as it said it would do when the bill was working its way through the legislature. Google has done the same after failed talks with the government. Both have already begun tests of how they would accomplish this, though it’s not entirely clear how they will implement such blocking when they go ahead with it.
On top of that, both have announced that they will end existing programs that help fund news media, including a Facebook deal with The Canadian Press and the Google News Showcase.
This clearly is not what the government or the news media want. Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says the government needs to “stand up for Canadians against tech giants,” while just about every media outlet has issued a statement accusing Meta and Google of censorship.
But while politicians are pointing fingers at each other, perhaps it’s well past time to ask a very simple question:
Why does this law exist, exactly?
In other words, what problem is it trying to solve?