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BC premier urges Meta to restore news access amid wildfire crisis

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By: Sakchi Khandelwal
BC premier urges Meta to restore news access amid wildfire crisis
David Eby says the social media giant is holding the province ransom over the Online News ActBritish Columbia’s premier issued a direct plea to the head of Meta on Monday as he implored the social media giant to reinstate access to Canadian news on its platforms amid the province’s ongoing wildfire crisis.

David Eby said it feels as though the social media giant is holding the province “ransom” in its ongoing spat with the federal government while it continues to ban news sharing on its Facebook and Instagram platforms.

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has been blocking news content for Canadian users since June, in response to the Online News Act, Bill C-18, which requires tech companies to pay news outlets for hosting their content.

Eby said that Meta’s decision has hampered the province’s efforts to communicate with the public and provide vital information about the wildfires, which have forced thousands of people to evacuate and declared a state of emergency.

“I am asking you, as a leader of one of the most powerful companies in the world, to please reconsider your position,” Eby wrote in an open letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “Please restore access to news for Canadians on your platforms. Please do not make British Columbians pay for your dispute with Ottawa.”3

The impact of the news ban

Eby said that Meta’s news ban has created a “dangerous information vacuum” that has been filled by misinformation, rumours, and conspiracy theories. He said that this has undermined public trust and safety, and increased anxiety and confusion among residents3.

He added that Meta’s news ban has hurt local media outlets, which rely on social media platforms to reach their audiences and generate revenue. He said that this has threatened the survival of independent journalism, which is essential for democracy and accountability.

Eby further said that he supports the federal government’s efforts to ensure fair compensation for news publishers, but he urged Meta to resolve its dispute with Ottawa through dialogue and negotiation, not by punishing Canadians.

The response from Meta

Meta has not yet responded to Eby’s letter, but it has previously defended its news ban as a necessary and proportional measure to protect its business interests and users’ rights.

Meta has argued that the Online News Act is unfair and unworkable, as it would force tech companies to pay for links and snippets of news that they do not ask for or control. Meta has also claimed that it already provides significant value and support to the news industry in Canada4.

Meta has said that it is willing to invest in quality journalism and work with the Canadian government on a sustainable solution, but only if the Online News Act is amended or repealed.

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