Last Thursday, Google announced it would move to end the availability of Canadian news content on its platform, following a similar statement made by Meta the week prior. It’s not clear when the blocking of news content would begin, but once it does, it means that people in Canada would no longer be able to share or see posts linking to articles from Canadian news outlets in their Facebook feeds, and search results on Google would not direct users to news articles. Canadian news outlets would also not be featured in the Google News or Discover features.
There is much at stake for Canadians as a result of this decision. Canadians being connected to local, independent news and information is fundamental to our safety as citizens as well as our democracy.
Meta and Google’s plan to block Canadian news on their platforms following the passage of the Online News Act will also disproportionately hurt small digital news publishers in Canada. Early-stage digital publishers, who are taking the risk of starting ventures in a tough but needed industry, reach new readers and build audiences by connecting through search and social platforms. Blocking news posts not only puts our business models under strain, it represents an abandonment of these companies’ stated values and responsibilities as dominant information platforms.
In one fell swoop, Meta and Google have hampered the ability for new digital news upstarts, and those looking to start them, at a time when Canadian journalism is struggling to adapt to a new era.
We urge Meta and Google to live up to the responsibility they carry with being the starting points that people in Canada turn to understand what is going on in their communities.
Google and Meta have explained their case that they do not feel obligated to carry links to news sites or pay publishers for their content. However, they must take seriously the role they play in directing users to what they think is the best and most up-to-date information. If the platforms block news results, especially if they don’t alert users at the point of engagement with their products, it will give Canadians a skewed picture of what is going on in their communities and it will prevent people from otherwise seeking out reliable information.
The tech companies must reverse this decision to block news.
And the Canadian government must recognize the significant harm that a news ban will have on this country’s burgeoning digital news sector.
Throughout the process of debating The Online News Act, small independent digital publishers laid out the stakes for our organizations. Several publishers appearing in their own capacity during the parliamentary and Senate hearings communicated that our organizations must be included and dealt with equitably in any negotiations with the platforms.
As new entrants, we do not yet have the name brand recognition of the large legacy news brands in Canada. And we may not have the resources to weather the storm while the platforms and the government engage in power plays.
In this uncertain time, small publishers that represent the future of independent media in Canada must be given a seat at the table in the coming months as regulations for the Online News Act are formed.
In a fight between the Canadian government, incumbent news brands, and the platforms, emerging independent news organizations and the Canadian public will bear the brunt of the impacts. We urge Google, Meta and the Canadian government to take their responsibilities inherent in their power over our information ecosystem seriously.
For further information: Jeanette Ageson, Chair, email@example.com, 604-339-4241
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