Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has announced that it will impose limitations on the availability of news content for Canadian users on its platforms following the passage of a contentious online news bill by the Canadian parliament.

The legislation, known as the Online News Act, obliges major platforms like Meta and Google to compensate news publishers for the content posted on their sites. Both Meta and Google have already been conducting trials restricting news access for certain Canadian users.

This move follows a similar action taken by Facebook in Australia last year when users were blocked from sharing or viewing news in response to comparable legislation.

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The Online News Act, which recently received clearance from the senate, establishes regulations that mandate platforms such as Meta and Google to engage in commercial negotiations and remunerate news organisations for their published content.

Meta has criticised the law, labeling it as “fundamentally flawed legislation that disregards the operational realities of our platforms.” Prior to the bill’s implementation, Meta announced that news availability on Facebook and Instagram would be terminated for all Canadian users.

A spokesperson from Meta informed Reuters that “a legislative framework that compels us to pay for links or content that we do not post, and which are not the reason the vast majority of people use our platforms, is neither sustainable nor workable.” The company emphasised that these changes in news accessibility would not affect other services provided to Canadian users.

Google, in its response, deemed the bill “unworkable” in its current form and expressed its intention to collaborate with the government to find a viable resolution.

The federal government asserts that the online news bill is necessary “to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news market” and to enable struggling news organisations to receive “fair compensation” for their news and links shared on these platforms.

An analysis conducted by an independent parliamentary budget watchdog estimated that digital platforms could contribute approximately C$329 million ($250 million; £196 million) annually to news businesses.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez previously conveyed his dissatisfaction with the testing conducted by the tech platforms, considering them “unacceptable” and a “threat.” In Australia, Facebook ultimately reinstated news content for its users after engaging in discussions with the government, leading to certain amendments.

Minister Rodriguez’s office confirmed that he recently met with representatives from both Google and Facebook, with further discussions planned.

However, the government remains committed to implementing the bill. In a statement, Minister Rodriguez posed the question, “If the government can’t stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?”

Media industry groups have lauded the passage of the bill as a positive step towards achieving market fairness.

Paul Deegan, President and CEO of News Media Canada, a media industry group, highlighted the significance of genuine journalism, produced by professional journalists, as an essential component of democracy that incurs substantial costs.

The Online News Act is expected to come into effect in Canada within six months.