OTTAWA – The federal government will stop advertising on Meta-owned platforms Facebook and Instagram as the conflict between the company and Ottawa heats up over legislation that would force web giants to share revenues with news publishers.
“Facebook has decided to be unreasonable, irresponsible, and started blocking news,” Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez told reporters Wednesday flanked by Bloc Québécois MP Martin Champoux and NDP MP Peter Julian.
Rodriguez said the government was only targeting ads on Meta platforms and not those on Google because the former has consistently refused to negotiate deals to compensate news media companies for the use of their content.
But the Liberal government’s decision does not extend to the party. Liberal Party of Canada spokesperson Parker Lund said in a statement that the party would continue to advertise on Meta-owned platforms. According to the company’s ad library, the party spent nearly $15,000 on over 1,000 ads in the past month.
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The Online News Act received royal assent earlier this month. It would force Meta and Google to reach commercial deals with news publishers to share revenues for news stories that appear on their platforms (Postmedia, publisher of the National Post, is in favour of the legislation).
Meta began blocking news content on its Facebook and Instagram platforms in response a few weeks ago.
Google has said it will remove Canadian news links from its products when the act comes into force in around six months, but Rodriguez said he is optimistic that it won’t come to that.
“We’ve met both Google and Meta multiple times to better understand the concerns. We believe we have a path forward and we’re willing to continue talking with the platforms,” Rodriguez said. “We’re convinced what Google is asking at this moment can be done through regulations.”
According to its latest annual report on advertisement spending, the federal government spent over $23 million on ads on Facebook and Instagram between 2020 and 2022, nearly triple what it spent on Twitter ($6.7 million) or Snapchat ($5 million).
On Wednesday, Quebec’s largest media conglomerate Quebecor, which owns newspapers Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec as well as TVA news stations, announced it was pulling advertising from Meta platforms as long as the company refused to host Canadian news links.
“In view of Meta’s categorical refusal to enter into negotiations, Quebecor announces that, effective immediately and until further notice, it is withdrawing all advertising by its subsidiaries and business units from Facebook and Instagram,” the company said in an unattributed statement.
Cogeco, a Quebec-based radio operator, quickly followed suit.
Spokespeople for other media companies including TorStar, The Globe and Mail, Bell Media, Corus, Postmedia (which owns the National Post) and La Presse did not immediately respond to questions about their advertising on Google and Meta platforms.
A spokesperson for CBC/Radio-Canada Leon Mar said only that the Crown corporation is “monitoring this situation and considering the options.”
With additional reporting by Anja Karadeglija