What is happening to Canadian news?!
Your questions answered on the Google and Meta news pullout in Canada following Online News Act Bill C-18.
It’s about to be blocked on several major online platforms. Canadian Internet users will not be able to share links to Canadian news outlet websites on Instagram or Facebook, or see links to their sites in Google news searches.
Why? Because Canada’s Online News Act, Bill C-18, is asking platforms to compensate news outlets for any links that users share on their platforms — and Google and Meta have decided they won’t.
Since Bill C-18 became law, Meta has offically started blocking news on its platforms and Google has announced plans to follow suit shortly after. This decision is an unfortunate direct product of the way our government designed the bill. By tying its revenue collection to online shares of news content on platforms, C-18 gives platforms an easy way of opting out: they can simply ban news sharing. If that happens, the original purpose of the bill (supporting news) isn’t fulfilled. Not only does the direct revenue from platforms evaporate, but we’ll also see a huge drop in organic traffic for news outlets, which will harm small and independent journalism groups the most.
This was never a great way of compensating news; it puts a price tag on sharing links, therefore BREAKING the open Internet and our ability to freely access and share the content we want. But that’s how the government set Bill C-18 up. Stick around to find out how we got here, what exactly is happening to Canadian news, and what you can do about it.
Bill C-18, the Online News Act, is the government’s primary proposed solution to Canada’s news crisis. First introduced in April of 2022, Bill C-18 mandates that major online platforms pay news outlets and Google. The bill’s target – funding quality journalism – is important, but the government’s proposed solution will do more harm than good. That’s because C-18 gives platforms a get-out-of-jail-free card: they can pay up for their users’ news content sharing, or they can stop that news sharing by removing the option entirely. Meta is calling the government's bluff and they've started to stop Canadian news sharing and Google has signalled to follow soon.
There’s a lot that’s wrong with Bill C-18 — read our full FAQ on it for all the details. But right now, the biggest problem is that C-18 implementation isn’t going to work for anyone – not for platforms, not for news organizations, and certainly not for Canadian Internet users.
As the government describes it, news is in crisis because online platforms are ‘stealing’ news content from news producers, and they’re just trying to get platforms to make ‘fair’ deals for the news. Heroic news companies are being denied advertising revenue that ought to be theirs when small news ‘snippets’ appear alongside links to their content on online platforms – 40-50 words, a thumbnail, and a header.
Here’s the problem: that simply isn’t true. First, online platforms are not stealing news content from news companies. It is news companies themselves who post their articles on online platforms the most; they voluntarily encourage the spread of their content on social platforms, and they could easily block their articles from being shared on platforms if they wished to do so. In reality, news snippets actually drive considerable advertising revenue to news organizations, and give little in return to platforms. News snippets themselves are not full articles, just teasers for them. Snippets are the bait that drives clicks, and when users click through a link to a news article, all of the ad revenue on the news website goes to that news organization. Platforms are already liable for copyright violation if they post news articles, and when they do, they almost always pay the authors.
Secondly, there isn’t that much news-associated ad revenue to begin with. News links are a very small percentage of the overall content platform users share; the real money-maker is YOU. The more users on a platform, the more platforms benefit from their users’ interactions. And most of us, most of the time, are reading and posting non-news content — jokes, interactions with our friends and family, memes, classifieds, personal updates, etc.
Because there isn’t actually that much revenue attached to news, if we tell platforms to pay for news or stop allowing us to share it, the choice is obvious: they’re going to stop letting us share it.
You’ll no longer be able to see or post Canadian news sources in Google searches or on Meta. The ‘news’ tab on Google won’t hold any Canadian news sources, and you will be prevented from sharing Canadian news sources on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Threads. However, Google has promised that we will still have access to essential and emergency information through official sources like government websites. We will also still be able to see and post international news sources that cover Canadian politics and events.
Even if Bill C-18 was successful and didn’t lead to news blocking, there’s some pretty serious problems with its results – including more misinformation, more clickbait, and problematic relationships between platforms and news organizations.
More misinformation because the criteria for who is classified as a news organization under Bill C-18 is very broad. Troll pages and inaccurate news sites could end up becoming designated content — and once they are, platforms are forbidden from ranking any qualified organization over another, meaning that they cannot rank well-established and reliable news sources like the Globe and Mail or National Post over lower quality and clickbait journalism.
More clickbait because tying more news revenue to viral shares on social media isn’t a recipe for quality long-form journalism. We know what does well on social media: the superficial and outrageous. It’s only natural that as news organizations become more dependent on platform-sharing revenue, they will focus more and more on clickbait material that will drive up their traffic, not the more valuable reporting that their long-term subscribers may prefer.
Problematic relationships between platforms and news organizations because all of C-18’s mandated deals are entirely secret in their terms and revenue allocation. As news organizations seek favourable deals with platforms, they are likely to become less critical of both platforms and the government that is forcing the deals, because both have control over who gets funding.
While there’s no way to stop news blocking, there’s lots of things you can do to keep accessing the news you want. Here’s a shortlist:
Use alternate platforms and search engines: Because Canada’s federal government only targeted Google and Meta with Bill C-18, other tech platforms will continue to support Canadian news for now — including Apple News, Bing or Yahoo search, X or other social media platforms.
Use a VPN: If you use a VPN to obscure your Canadian IP address, Google searches will still show you Canadian news, although your Canadian friends and followers on Meta platforms still won’t be able to see your Canadian news shares.
Visit news organizations directly: Canadian news outlets are being blocked on two of the largest platforms, but the rest of the Internet will keep working. You can continue to follow your favourite outlets’ content as normal if you visit their websites and apps directly, or subscribe to their email updates.
Rely on international coverage: While we encourage continuing to seek out Canadian outlets, foreign outlets like the BBC or the Washington Post will continue to be viewable and shareable on online platforms as normal.
There is a solution: we need the government to abandon Bill C-18. A rotten bill built on a faulty core isn’t going to support our news industry. Canadians deserve better. We need our leaders to go back to the drawing board and develop a public news funding model that is transparent, independent of government control, not tied to social media shares and gives support where it's needed — to local news and public accountability journalism. If our news model is funded by online platforms, we need to make sure they can’t wiggle out of it.
The way things stand, Bill C-18 will result in less funding and less distribution of Canadian journalism. We sincerely hope the government will not be too stubborn to admit their mistake, and start fixing it.
The government is scrambling to fix their mistakes without scrapping C-18. They’ve released a ‘next steps’ document, and will soon propose regulations on which platforms the legislation applies to. There will be an upcoming opportunity for public consultation on what they’ve proposed — and we need to let the government know exactly what we think about Bill C-18. There’s a real risk that the government and platforms will find a ‘fix’ that works for them and large news outlets — but not for our actual needs. That’s what we want to prevent.