Online News Act: Necessary Response to Rapidly Changing Media Landscape, Says Heritage Minister

Online News Act: Necessary Response to Rapidly Changing Media Landscape, Says Heritage Minister
A news website from a smart phone

In light of the rapidly transforming media scenario, Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge declared at the MINDS international news agency conference that, although the Online News Act may have its imperfections, the pace of media evolution doesn’t allow the government the luxury of further delay.

“The media landscape is changing too fast for the government to wait any longer,” St-Onge emphasized, reflecting the urgency to address the dynamics between digital platforms and news providers.

Central to the Act is a provision compelling tech behemoths like Facebook and Google to financially compensate for featuring news links on their platforms. St-Onge underscored the government’s resolve in this matter, stating, “The government intends to stand firm with the law.”

St-Onge’s remarks were not devoid of criticisms targeted at Facebook. She highlighted what she perceived as “intimidation tactics” employed by the tech giant, which involved the removal of all Canadian news links, even before the enforcement of the Act. “Facebook is using intimidation tactics by removing all news links in Canada before the act is even in force,” she said, urging other nations to consider similar actions against tech giants to safeguard the future of news.

The Facebook logo is seen on a mobile phone, Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston. PHOTO BY MICHAEL DWYER /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

In contrast, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has vehemently contested the premise of the legislation. They argue it’s based on a flawed assumption suggesting companies like Meta unfairly profit from news content. Their stance remains that ceasing news availability in Canada is the sole viable way to comply with the impending law.

While Facebook’s reaction has been rather combative, Google’s approach is marked by a more conciliatory tone. They have maintained an open channel of dialogue with the government. Recognizing this, St-Onge mentioned, “I had heard the company’s concern about knowing how much they’ll have to pay under the law.”

In reflection, the Heritage Minister admitted the challenges they face stem partly from the government’s procrastination in regulating digital platforms. However, she remains hopeful, adding that “it’s starting with this law and can adapt it over time.”