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Your questions about Meta and other social media giants blocking news in Canada, explained

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Some Instagram users in Canada are finding their access to news accounts restricted as Meta and other social media companies prepare for the country’s Online News Act to come into effect.

Meta, the company that owns Instagram and Facebook, says it underwent testing in June to limit some users and publishers from viewing or sharing news content in Canada. It says tests impact up to five per cent of Canadian users.

Many have questions about the federal government’s Online News Act, why it’s being opposed by social media companies and how the friction between the two will impact Canadian users.

Here are some of your questions, answered.

What is the Online News Act?

The Online News Act, or Bill C-18, is a piece of Canadian legislation that requires tech companies like Google and Meta to compensate news outlets for sharing links to their pages. The law received royal assent last month and is slated to take effect in January.

What are the concerns for social media companies?

Critics, including Meta and Google, say Bill C-18 is unfair, unworkable and amounts to a tax on links, with no recognition of the traffic or “free marketing” the tech companies provide to news publishers.

Along with blocking access to some users, Meta has begun an ad campaign on its Facebook and Instagram platforms, criticizing the law and explaining its decision to remove news links.

“The Online News Act is based on the incorrect premise that social media companies benefit unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, but the reverse is true,” said Lisa Laventure, spokesperson for Meta, in a statement Monday.

“News outlets voluntarily share content on social media to expand their audiences and help their bottom line. Unfortunately, the only way we can reasonably comply with this legislation is to end news availability for people in Canada in the coming weeks.”

Is this what the bill’s proponents wanted?

No. Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez called Meta’s move “disappointing” and said Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.

Meanwhile, Paul Deegan, the head of News Media Canada, called Meta’s move a “kick in the shins” to Canadians at a time when the value and need for credible information has never been greater.

“Meta’s decision to ‘unfriend’ Canada by denying access to trusted sources of news for some of their users, as wildfires burn and when public safety is at stake, is irresponsible and tone deaf,” Deegan told CBC News in an email.

“This hard-nose lobbying tactic is more evidence of the power imbalance that exists between dominant platforms and publishers.”

Will this happen to all of us soon?

In order to comply with the law, both Google and Meta have stated they would remove news links in Canada before the law comes into effect by the end of the year.

Rodriguez has said Google and Meta do not have obligations under the law because the regulatory process is just beginning.

A screengrab from a cellphone of the Instagram App shows a white screen with a camera icon that has a line through it and the message: 'People in Canada can’t see this content. In response to Canadian government legislation, news content can’t be viewed in Canada.'
Meta, the company that owns Instagram and Facebook, says it underwent testing in June to limit some users and publishers from viewing or sharing news content in Canada. It says tests impact up to five per cent of Canadian users. (Brodie Fenlon/CBC )

“We’re deeply convinced that Google’s and Facebook’s concerns can be resolved through the regulatory process. If Facebook truly believes that news has no value, they can say so at the negotiating table,” Rodriguez said in a statement on Monday.

“Threats to pull news instead of complying with the laws in our country only highlight the power that platforms hold over news organizations, both big and small.”

Google has said it will work with the government throughout the regulatory process, while Meta believes the process isn’t equipped to make changes to parts of the legislation with which it disagrees.

What is CBC doing about this?

Legacy media and broadcasters have praised the bill, which promises to “enhance fairness” in the digital news marketplace and help bring in more money for shrinking newsrooms. Tech giants including Meta and Google have been blamed in the past for disrupting and dominating the advertising industry, eclipsing smaller, traditional players.

CBC/Radio-Canada’s corporate position is that the Online News Act will help level the playing field and contribute to a healthy news ecosystem in Canada “at a time when 80 per cent of digital ad revenue goes to Facebook and Google,” said spokesperson Leon Mar.

In an editor’s blog, CBC News editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon has suggested audiences follow the broadcaster on TikTok and other apps, such as Gem and CBC Listen.

Has there been pushback?

Meta, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif., has taken similar steps in the past. In 2021, it briefly blocked news from its platform in Australia after the country passed legislation that would compel tech companies to pay publishers for using their news stories. It later struck deals with Australian publishers.

Gregory Taylor, a communications, media and film professor at the University of Calgary, pointed to Australia as an example for why Canadian news publishers should hold strong on their position.

“Facebook is really trying to assert itself, but in the end they can’t afford to lose a lot of these markets,” Taylor previously told CBC  North. “I believe that we are at the leading edge of getting these companies to contribute to our democracy by bringing in this kind of funding model.”

What is the answer to combat this?

Alfred Hermida, a journalism professor at the University of British Columbia, believes C-18 is a “flawed piece of legislation” that doesn’t address greater issues in the news industry, such as the concentration of private media ownership.

“It doesn’t take into account the record profits of media conglomerates like Bell and Rogers,” he previously told CBC News.

“And it doesn’t really do anything to support for more than 140 journalism startups that have been created in Canada since the year 2000.”

In the near term, private messaging and chat groups may also be alternatives as Meta’s Facebook Messenger does not appear to be affected by the company’s plans to block news links.

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Trudeau’s hand-picked candidate for Montreal byelection riles aspiring contenders

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OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to hand-pick a candidate for a riding in an upcoming Montreal byelection isn’t being well-received by three aspiring contenders who spent months campaigning only to be shunted aside.

The Liberals announced Montreal city Coun. Laura Palestini last Friday as the party’s candidate in a byelection whose date has yet to be announced for the riding of LaSalle—Émard—Verdun. The byelection must be called by July 30.

Three aspiring candidates — local school commissioner Lori Morrison; entrepreneur Christopher Baenninger; and former Quebec Liberal party organizer Eddy Kara — denounced the decision, with Morrison calling it “anti-democratic, 100 per cent.”

Morrison said she couldn’t believe the party let her knock on doors and sign up memberships only to ultimately abandon plans for a nomination meeting.

The nomination to become candidate in LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, Morrison said, was hotly contested because the riding “has been a Liberal stronghold for a very, very long time.”

Liberal campaign co-chair Soraya Martinez Ferrada has said it was Trudeau’s decision to prevent party members from choosing the candidate and to instead select Palestini, who represents the LaSalle borough on Montreal city council. Ferrada was on vacation and unavailable for comment Monday, her office said. The party declined to make anyone else available and instead provided a statement.

The Liberals have won the riding in all three elections since it was created, with former justice minister David Lametti re-elected with 42.9 per cent of the vote in 2021. The Bloc Québécois candidate received almost half as many votes — 22.1 per cent — while the New Democratic Party and the Conservatives picked up 19.4 per cent and 7.5 per cent of the vote, respectively.

Lametti resigned on Jan. 31, after he was excluded from Trudeau’s cabinet in last summer’s reshuffle.

Baenninger said he was “in shock” at Trudeau’s decision to forgo the nomination process and hand-pick a candidate, saying it was “not right” and “demotivating.”

Morrison refused to say whether the party is respecting its values by disregarding a nomination vote; Baenninger, meanwhile, said the decision falls within the rules. The party’s vetting committee, he explained, can reject any candidates in the best interest of the party.

However, Baenninger said, the party didn’t do itself any favours by pushing three candidates aside in favour of Palestini. “I’m going to be shrewd: we didn’t improve our chances. I’ll leave it at that.”

Trudeau’s leadership has been under scrutiny since the party failed to retain the riding of Toronto—St. Paul’s, a longtime Liberal bastion for more than three decades, that was won by the Conservatives on June 24. Nationally, the Liberals have been polling roughly 20 points behind the Tories led by Pierre Poilievre for more than one year.

Both Baenninger and Morrison said that before Palestini was announced by the party, they had never heard her name before.

Kara, a filmmaker and former provincial Liberal organizer, had the support of former Quebec finance minister Carlos Leitão and ex-MP Jean-Claude Poissant. He said it’s “really shocking” that Trudeau interrupted the nomination process, adding that the party sent signals that members would choose the candidate, including by publishing a nomination kit.

He said he learned that the Liberals wanted someone of Italian origin to “ensure we get the Italian vote.” Kara said three members of the Liberal Party executive confirmed to him that they were also considering appointing Daniela Romano, another municipal councillor in LaSalle.

According to 2016 census data, 8.2 per cent of the riding’s residents are of Italian origin.

Palestini will face another municipal councillor in the byelection, as the NDP have named Craig Sauvé, who represents the nearby Sud-Ouest borough on city council. The Conservatives will run Louis Ialenti, who the party describes as “a common-sense small business owner.” The Bloc has not revealed its candidate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Adventure-seeking B.C. couple were victims found on Nova Scotia island: relative

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HALIFAX – The British Columbia couple whose remains recently washed ashore on Nova Scotia’s remote Sable Island have been identified as 70-year-old James Brett Clibbery and his 54-year-old wife, Sarah Packwood.

Clibbery’s sister, Lynda Spielman, said today the RCMP have confirmed their identities.

Spielman, a Calgary resident, says she’s heard many theories about what happened to the adventurous couple after June 11 when they left Halifax harbour in a 13-metre sailboat en route to the Azores — a 3,200-kilometre journey.

Spielman declined to speculate on what went wrong, and the Mounties have said they are still investigating.

On Monday, the RCMP confirmed they had identified Clibbery’s body with the help of the province’s medical examiner’s office, but they declined to release his name, citing privacy legislation.

The Mounties previously confirmed the couple’s sailboat, Theros, was reported missing on June 18, and it wasn’t until July 10 that their bodies were found in a three-metre inflatable boat on Sable Island, about 280 kilometres southeast of Halifax.

Clibbery and Packwood, who lived on B.C.’s Salt Spring Island, described themselves as adventure travellers and posted details of their voyages on a YouTube channel called Theros Adventures.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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LCBO stores reopen across Ontario after two-week strike by workers

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TORONTO – Hundreds of Ontario’s liquor stores reopened Tuesday following a strike that lasted more than two weeks, but the fighting between the union representing workers and the government dragged on.

About 10,000 Liquor Control Board of Ontario workers had returned Monday to prepare for the opening of nearly 700 stores after they walked off the job on July 5.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents LCBO workers, had said the labour dispute was largely about Premier Doug Ford’s plan to allow convenience and grocery stores to sell ready-to-drink cocktails. The expanded sales, it said, was an existential threat to the workers’ future.

The sniping continued Tuesday as the union took umbrage with Ford’s comments from Monday, when he said the strike should never have happened.

The union said it made “significant gains” as a direct result of the strike.

“LCBO workers are proud of what they achieved in this contract, which wouldn’t have been possible without the strike,” said Colleen MacLeod, chair of the union’s LCBO bargaining unit. “They’re also happy to get back to work serving their communities again.”

The three-year deal, which the LCBO workers ratified over the weekend, sees an eight per cent wage increase over three years, the conversion of about 1,000 casual employees to permanent part-time positions and no store closures over the course of the agreement.

The union said converting those casual positions into 1,000 permanent part-time jobs and the guarantee of no closures for the duration of the contract was not on the table before the strike.

As part of the reopening, the LCBO said there will no longer be limits placed on online orders, but those orders could take up to three weeks for delivery.

Outside one LCBO in Toronto’s west end, Jay Brafman lambasted both sides for the strike.

“I think (the union) basically held hostage Ontarians and that’s not the right way to get more out of your job,” he said.

Brafman, a fan of the government’s plan to expand alcohol sales into convenience stores, also criticized Ford.

“If he really wanted to show some courage, he would have liquidated the LCBO,” he said.

Brafman, a vodka drinker, was put out during the strike as the LCBO is the main seller of spirits across the province.

“It cost me a ton of money having to go out to bars if I wanted to drink,” he said, adding that he’s happy the stores are open again.

Ford’s previous plan was to get beer, wine and ready-to-drink cocktails in convenience stores and all grocery stores by 2026, completing a 2018 election campaign promise. But in May he announced that would instead happen this year, capping speculation of an early election that Ford did not outright deny.

Convenience stores will be allowed to sell beer, wine and coolers starting Sept. 5 while newly licensed grocery stores can do so starting Oct. 31.

An “early implementation agreement” with The Beer Store involves the province paying the company up to $225 million to help it keep stores open and workers employed. The province is also giving brewers a rebate on an LCBO fee that normally brings in $45 million a year, and it is giving retailers a 10 per cent wholesale discount.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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