News Links Blocking Appears to Have Begun on Facebook

For some users, Facebook has begun blocking news links in response to Bill C-18. It is being described as the news link apocalypse.

At the beginning of the month, Meta announced that it would begin rolling out news links blocking. This in response to the passage of Bill C-18, now the Online News Act.

The move was entirely predictable. Experts and observers alike have long warned that this would happen. Those warnings repeatedly went straight to the government and lawmakers alike. In response, the government and supporters ignored those warnings, instead choosing to believe that this was all just a big fancy bluff. For them, the world revolves around the large media companies and their content would be too important to get blocked. Frequently, they clung to the talking point of “but Australia!” while refusing to relent on this issue. Even as Meta announced that it would be following through with these plans, supporters continued to insist that this was a bluff despite the certainty of the situation.

As the days went by after Facebook’s announcement, several news corporations filed a complaint with the Competition Bureau, trying to claim that Facebook blocking news links is an anti-competitive move. Though the Competition Bureau is obligated to look into any complaint, the filing itself was incredibly weak. It pushed several legal theories that are hardly rooted in law or reality. Experts agree that it is unlikely that this effort will go very far given how weak the arguments were.

If supporters of the legislation thought that this would be a deterrent for Meta to carry out the news links blocking, those hopes were dashed today. Some Canadian users are reporting that the news links blocking has already begun. Chat TV News is reporting that they have been blocked on Facebook:

MEDICINE HAT, AB – Access to the CHAT TV Facebook page is being blocked for some of our readers.

When some readers attempt to access the page they are seeing a message that reads “No posts available” and another that reads “People in Canada can’t see this content. In response to Canadian government legislation, news content can’t be viewed in Canada.”

Chat TV is not alone in experiencing this. One Twitter user noted that The National Telegraph was also impacted:

In Trudeau’s Canada, we now cannot even access our Canadian news pages to post articles.

This was what Bill C-18 was intended to do. Threaten Meta and Google with extortion to “get journalists paid” knowing Google and Meta would just stop letting Canadian news get posted.

Luke Lebrun, editor for Press Progress, has noted that numerous other players have been hit:

Canada’s newspocalypse has officially begun with Meta blocking news links and Facebook pages of Canadian news publishers in response to Bill C-18.

“Democracy dies in darkness,” etc. etc.

For those who can’t see the picture, the affected organizations appear to be Press Progress, The National Post, Canadaland, CBC News, Ottawa Citizen, The Narwhal, The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, and The Tyee.

Some have read the Facebook announcement that suggested that all news would also be affected. Lebrun is confirming that a number of international news media organizations have also been impacted:

Meta also looks like it decided to ban *all news content* from Facebook regardless what country the publisher is based in.

Meta did not answer questions about how it planned to deal with international news organizations when I asked them this last month

For those who can’t see the image, the affected organizations shown in the picture are The New York Times, CNN, AFP (French news organization), The Washington Post, Fox News, Le Monde, BBC News, PBS News Hour, and DW News.

While this is only just the first wave, this is certainly a huge swath of affected news organizations. Freezenet could not independently verify the blocks as it appears that we are not part of the set of users that are seeing these at the moment. Of course, there will be other waves moving forward, so that’s not to say we won’t be impacted in some way later on.

Either way, though, the damage done by Bill C-18 is now more broadly being felt. With further waves set to come for Meta and Google yet to act, this may only be just the beginning of the large media companies shooting themselves in the foot.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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