No Canadian Media/Government, Meta Did Not Start Blocking News in Response to Yellowknife Evacuations

A recent claim suggests that Meta began blocking news in response to the Yellowknife evacuations. The facts beg to differ.

The large media companies and the Canadian government have been running a multiyear disinformation campaign against the platforms. The barrage of lies from the media in the interest of their own financial gains has really contributed significantly to people having less and less trust in the media in the first place. Whether it was lying that the platforms are “stealing” their content (Big Lie 1.0) or that platforms are censoring the news or stopping people from reading the news (Big Lie 2.0), the media’s credibility has been hitting all time lows in recent years.

The actions of the large media companies lying was atrocious in and of itself. We know that they know that none of their wild claims and conspiracy theories were true. Yet, rather than simply rely on reporting the facts, the media just kept repeatedly doubling down with the conspiracy theories that the platforms somehow “owe” them money for… allowing the publishers to post news links on their platforms and getting free traffic out of the deal. It’s always been about the media trying to have their cake and eat it too.

Unfortunately, recent events have shown, once again, that there really is no bottom for the media and the government when trying to sell lies to the public. Yesterday, we reported on the medias disgusting behaviour of taking advantage of the Yellowknife wildfires and trying to spin this to suit their political agenda with Meta. Simply put, people are suffering negative health effects, people are being displaced, people are losing their homes and, worst of all, people have died in these wildfires. Using tragedy like this to further a purely self-interested political agenda is just plain shameful. I honestly don’t know how people in the media sleep at night knowing that they took advantage of the situation to further their political agenda.

On Friday, there was a new lie that is surfacing in all of this. We first saw it on a CBC broadcast on Friday when the organization brought a guest to talk about the Meta blocking and how, supposedly, it’s all Meta’s fault for putting peoples lives in danger (I wanted to send my fist through my own TV when I saw that). The guest in question pretty much spewed an insane amount of lies while on the program. Most of those lies are lies that have long ago been debunked (platforms “stealing” news content, platforms “censoring” the news, etc.) However, one lie that was seemingly novel to me came out and it is a lie that government officials as well as the cult-like supporters of Bill C-18 have started repeating.

So, the lie (and anyone who has even the smallest amount of knowledge of the debate will immediately flag it as obviously false) is that Meta saw the wildfire evacuations in Yellowknife and, in response to those wildfire evacuations, began blocking news links. This in an effort to use the victims of those wildfires as pawns in their “fight” against the government over the link tax. I know, “WTF?” indeed. Of course, debunking this myth merely requires a look at the timeline of events.

On June 2nd, we reported on Meta’s announcement that they would begin test blocking news links on their platforms. At the time, they were long warning that this was going to happen (the government was ignoring those warnings).

On June 22nd, we reported on Meta’s announcement that news links blocking will go ahead. This was as the legislation was working its way towards royal assent.

On July 13th, we reported on Meta turning down the governments capitulated offer, saying that news links will be blocked anyway.

On August 1st, Meta announced that they would be rolling out news links blocking (we reported on this on the same day as the announcement).

On August 9th, we reported on large swaths of the media sector having their news links getting blocked on Facebook.

On August 18th, the evacuation order was issued for Yellowknife residents (along with other regions):

AUGUST 18, 2023

An evacuation order has been issued for residents in Yellowknife, N’dilo, Dettah, and the Ingraham Trail due to wildfire. All residents, including families of essential staff need to evacuate by TODAY – Friday, August 18, 2023.

Air evacuation is in process. Go to Sir John Franklin School to register and get on flights. If you need a ride, call 867-444-0115. Currently, there are no wait lines but as the day progresses there may be due to the number of residents being evacuated. Come prepared for that possibility, but the GNWT is working hard to minimize wait lines.

To those who are travelling by air, a reception centre has been opened at Calgary. The reception centre will provide temporary lodging and access to specialized services.

We are working to stabilize the fire issue as quickly as we can but at this time, we cannot predict how long the evacuation period will last.

So, in order for the claim that this news links blocking was in response to the Yellowknife evacuations, it would require that Meta to see into the future by, at minimum, a little over two and a half months into the future that this evacuation was going to take place, then go back and make that decision to do this. We’re talking about something that it physically impossible to do here.

Worst case scenario for Meta is that this was bad timing that is demonstrably out of their hands. The truth in the matter is that the government is at fault here for passing the legislation that forced Meta to make this decision. If anything, the governments legislation is what put peoples lives in danger. Had the government rescinded this law (however unlikely that is), we wouldn’t be in this scenario, yet here we are.

Moreover, as pointed out by others, government issued warnings as well as information by non-news sources are still allowed to be posted on the platforms in the first place. Further, Facebook is a social media platform, not a place for emergency services information. Expecting them to be the primary source of public safety information is a pretty absurd ask, though Facebook does try to implement systems that also serve that role.

At any rate, myth thoroughly debunked.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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