Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is showing no interest in compromising with Meta and Google over a Liberal bill that would make them pay for Canadian journalism that helps the companies generate revenue.
Trudeau said Wednesday (June 7) that Meta and Google’s bullying tactics will not work with his government, which he says is ensuring those companies do not weaken Canada’s democracy by threatening its domestic media industry.
Meta announced last week it will test blocking access to some news for a small percentage of Canadian users of Instagram and Facebook.
The company says it is prepared to permanently end access to news content in Canada if Parliament passes Bill C-18, which would require tech giants to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing news content.
Google ran a similar test earlier this year, restricting access to news on its search engine for less than four per cent of its Canadian users. It says it is looking for a compromise with the Liberal government.
“The fact that these internet giants would rather cut off Canadians’ access to local news than pay their fair share is a real problem, and now they’re resorting to bullying tactics to try and get their way. It’s not going to work,” Trudeau said at a news conference.
“We will continue to make sure that these incredibly profitable corporations contribute to strengthening our democracy, not weakening it.”
Big publishers have told a Senate committee currently studying the bill that they could lose millions of dollars should their content be blocked by Google and Meta.
The online news bill already passed in the House of Commons and could be approved by the Senate as early as this month.
If it becomes law, both companies would be required to enter into agreements with news publishers to pay them for news content that appears on their sites if it helps the tech giants generate money.
Both companies have argued that news doesn’t generate much revenue for their companies, and are considering ending local news on their platforms altogether.
Meta says news makes up about three per cent of the content that’s on Facebook feeds, and Google says less than two per cent of searches have to do with news, because people care more about recipes than articles.
Still, each company has proposed amendments in the Senate, including changes to the section of the bill that deals with arbitration and tweaks that would create more certainty around which publishers they would have to enter into agreements with.
For example, Google says that as the bill is currently written, it would have to enter into agreements with community and campus broadcasters, even if they do not produce news content and have no obligation to adhere to a codes of ethics.
Spokesperson Shay Purdy said in a statement Wednesday that the company has come to the table with “reasonable and pragmatic solutions” that would increase the company’s investment in Canadian news.
“We’re very concerned about the path we’re on and we’re doing everything we can to engage constructively and avoid a negative outcome for Canadians.”
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has said that the bill is already balanced, and that Meta and Google have his phone number if they want to talk.
Rodriguez was expected to appear before a Senate committee on Wednesday evening.
Meta declined a request for comment about the prime minister’s remarks.
Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press