The new law C-18: what is it and what impact does it have on social media?
On June 22, the Government of Canada passed the Online News Act, or law C-18. This new measure mainly introduces requirements for digital platforms sharing news articles. The Online News Act seems to be giving rise to animated debates on the place of traditional media and access to news, and although these two subjects are not directly linked to our field of expertise, the fact remains that social media and the laws governing them are at the very heart of our business.
What Do You Need to Know About law C-18?
This new law on online news places major constraints on digital platforms, including social media, whenever news articles are shared. These platforms are now obliged to negotiate with Canadian media companies in order to publish their news online.
The aim of this law is to level the playing field between media companies and the major digital platforms. By adopting this law, the Government wishes to achieve greater equity, while making the information sector more viable. With this in mind, the State wishes to interfere as little as possible, leaving platforms and press companies to negotiate and find common ground themselves.
Clearly, law C-18 regulates stakeholders who make news produced by news media available to people in Canada. Search engines, such as Google, as well as the parent companies of certain social media, such as Meta, are considered stakeholders. They are therefore directly affected by this new law.
Law C-18 has a clear objective: it aims to protect the independence of the press. But this inevitably has consequences for social media.
What are the consequences for social media?
In response to this new law, Google first conducted tests last December, blocking access to news for certain Canadian users. The giant later reconsidered their position, stating it would rather remove links to Canadian news when the law came into force, whether on their Search, News or Discover products. Google also claims that this new law “will prevent us from continuing to offer our Google News Showcase product in Canada.”
As for Meta, parent company of Facebook and Instagram, it is also conducting tests by blocking access to news for certain Canadian users. Meta seems to be opposed to any agreement with news organizations, as it has stated that it wants to “end the availability of news in Canada”, according to a Meta spokeswoman.
As a result of this law, Canadians will no longer be able to access the news on their usual platforms: social media. That’s what Meta said in a Facebook post on July 19. It confirms that, to comply with law C-18, Canadians will no longer have access to news on either Instagram or Facebook.
This is problematic considering that social networks are the main source of information for one out of three Quebecers. This raises the question of access to reliable information. Assuming no agreement is reached between the Internet giants and media companies, it will be up to Canadian residents to seek out information on other platforms.
It’s clear that on social networks, nothing is ever set in stone. Laws and algorithms are constantly evolving. This was notably the case when Facebook decided to give greater prominence to personal content, posted by friends, rather than professional content shared by company pages. That’s why it’s so important for digital marketing agencies, and indeed all marketing departments, to keep up to date with new laws and algorithm changes.
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