Reports Continue to Roll in of Publishers Seeing Their Links Blocked on Instagram

The damage caused by Bill C-18 is already starting to be felt on Instagram as publishers see their news links blocked.

With Meta announcing that they will be ending the support for news links in response to Bill C-18 passing and becoming the Online News Act, the question on a lot of people’s minds is when that shoe will drop. Indeed, Meta said that the news links blocks will take full effect before the new law comes into force. When the government capitulated and offered “clarifying” language, they also, in the process, suggested that the law would come into force just before Christmas. This confirmed some of the speculation involved in figuring out when all of this is going to happen.

One question might be what the news links blocking will look like. Yes, the switch has yet to be pulled, but apparently, Canadians didn’t have to wait long to see what the damage could look like. Reports are trickling in that some publishers are seeing their news links getting blocked altogether. Earlier this month, a screenshot showing content being blocked:

Canadian news publishers on Instagram are starting to see this on their accounts.

Another user posted a similar message she had received:

@pablorodriguez THIS is my company and this is what you have done to small independent media in Canada. We do not deserve this. Bill C18 is irreparably flawed. Repeal it before it’s too late. This did NOT need to happen. @mgeist #billc18

Both are screenshots of Instagram (we were able to get clarity on the second screenshot). The only thing that isn’t completely clear is whether this is part of a much larger move to start blocking news links or if this is still parts of Meta’s testing of news links from last month. The latter, for us, is the most likely thing we can see especially given that the tests were supposed to affect 5% of Canadian users. It’s possible the test has been slightly altered to test the messaging system that would be in place as well, but we have no real way of knowing for sure.

What one can glean from this, however, is the kind of damage the Online News Act is going to inflict on publishers. If you are dependent on a platform for your traffic, then suddenly, you see that, this would easily be incredibly damaging to potential growth and overall traffic to a publishers website. After all, when you spent months, if not, years, crafting campaigns and marketing to specifically take advantage of a platform, that is a lot of time, effort, and potentially money, that suddenly was all for not. If you are going to start looking for a source of traffic, you are suddenly going to be asked to look elsewhere.

All of that means you have to learn a whole new platform, figure out as best as possible on how all of that ticks, readjust your marketing strategy especially if you are going to be dropping advertising money on the platform, and pray that the drop in traffic would be, at best, minimal. In theory, it can be done, but at enormous cost – and there are no guarantees here.

Probably the biggest travesty in all of this is the fact that the largest news companies wound up being successful in getting the legislation through. As a result, the entire sector is now facing the consequences of the actions of the wealthy few. Even players who wanted no part in this legislation and just asked for the status quo to continue with regard to links. Like Jeannine Taylor said, the smaller publishers didn’t deserve this, but they are about to get strapped into this ride against their will anyway.

Some may blame the platforms in all of this, but the ultimate blame falls squarely on the government and the big publishing outfits that pushed this bill in the first place. Whether the above news links blocking was the result of the Meta tests or part of a broader and gradual move to block news links in time for the new law coming into force, the damage all of this is causing is very plain to see. Unless there is some kind of unlikely miracle coming down the pipe to salvage the situation, the above will seem like small potatoes compared to what is seemingly destined to hit later on.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top