As Bill C-18 Passes House of Commons, Meta Announces News Links Will Be Blocked

Bill C-18 passed the second to last vote. In response, Facebook announced that news links in Canada will be blocked.

The “finding out” phase of Bill C-18 appears to be a go. Early on this month, Meta announced that it would be test blocking Canadian news links on its platform. The test would affect 5% of its Canadian user base. Up to that point, government officials and Bill C-18 supporters alike insisted that this was all just a big fancy bluff that can be ignored because the bill will just magically solve all of these problems and the platforms would just go back to the negotiating table. All it takes is supporters just believing hard enough and a sprinkling of fairy dust will lead to a new age of prosperity for journalism.

The problem is that realization started setting in that maybe the large media companies were about to blow up their own online business models. So, they sought reassurances that there was a plan B or some kind of solution that would allow the government to respond to these moves by Meta. So, they began asking Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez about the ace up his sleeve that will totally fix everything. When the Minister ended up having no answers, the media tried again. This time, with Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. The Prime Minister responded to increasingly panicked questions by saying that he is really really really disappointed in the platforms. For reasons that should be incredibly obvious, these were decidedly not the answers the media was looking for.

As time wore on, the second thoughts and panic started setting in with the large media companies. Maybe those stupid tech experts were right all along (duh!). Compounding the matter was Bell Media admitting that Bill C-18 doesn’t appear to be destined to deliver the effects they had hoped. This as they laid off over 1,000 employees and shuttered multiple radio stations. Doubts at this late stage of the legislative process don’t appear to be slowing the government down as they pushed full steam ahead to not only pass the bill, but also shut down debate in the process to speed up the process further. In response, the Globe and Mail admitted that the blockages may actually happen. You can almost hear others in the media sector screaming, “what have we done???”

For the large media outlets, this last minute second guessing comes far too late. The train has already left the station and the bill on board is on the fast track to passage. Nothing appears to be slowing it down at this point. Today, we have learned that the bill has passed the House of Commons 208-113.

Vote result: on a motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill #C18 was adopted. #cdnpoli

Yeas: 208 ✅
Nays: 113❌

(Via @MGeist)

Now, it heads to the senate for a final vote. All that’s left is Royal Assent and the bill becomes law.

In response to these developments, Meta has announced that it will be blocking news links for all Canadians prior to the bill taking effect. From Facebooks announcement:

Today, we are confirming that news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada prior to the Online News Act (Bill C-18) taking effect.

We have repeatedly shared that in order to comply with Bill C-18, passed today in Parliament, content from news outlets, including news publishers and broadcasters, will no longer be available to people accessing our platforms in Canada.

Earlier this month, we announced that we were conducting product tests to help us build an effective product solution to end news availability as a result of C-18. These tests are ongoing and currently impact a small percentage of users in Canada.

The changes affecting news content will not otherwise impact Meta’s products and services in Canada. We want to assure the millions of Canadians on our platforms that they will always be able to connect with friends and family, grow their businesses and support their local communities.

Probably lost in all of this is Google, but in all likelihood, they will eventually follow suit and do the same. There’s simply no reason to just go along with this bill from a business perspective – this especially in light of the fact that Facebook has decided not to go along with this.

The results of all of this is likely going to be highly predictable. There will be a lot of carnage in the news sector as news sites realize they have been blocked from their own audiences on these platforms. This will result in a loss of ad revenue, subscriptions, and pretty much the only means a number of these companies are surviving at this stage. How it will actually play out remains to be seen, but it is looking doubtful that things will be pretty in the sector by any means.

(Via @MGeist)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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