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Can Canada make big tech pay for news?

Can Canada make big tech pay for news?

Pierre-Elliott Levasseur, the president of La Presse, a leading French-language publication in Quebec, has expressed frustration over the lack of payment agreements with tech giants for the use of news articles. He had hoped that a new law, the Online News Act, would compel tech firms like Google and Meta to negotiate payment agreements with news outlets. However, instead of compliance, the tech giants have threatened to block links to news articles on their platforms.

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has announced its intention to block news sites for Canadian users in the coming months, while Google, which has previously negotiated payment agreements in other countries, has called Canada’s law “unworkable” and plans to remove links to Canadian news from its search, news, and discover products.

The dispute over payment for news content is not unique to Canada and is being considered by countries worldwide, including Indonesia, South Africa, India, the UK, and the US. While the potential revenue generated by payment agreements is relatively small compared to tech giants’ overall earnings, it could serve as a lifeline for journalism.

Canada’s law is modeled after a similar measure passed in Australia in 2021. Initially, Meta imposed a news blackout in Australia, but after amendments to the bill, both Meta and Google negotiated payment agreements with publishers. The outcome in Canada may differ due to broader changes in search and the platforms’ evolving strategies.

Some argue that the government underestimated the shifts in Meta’s business and its declining emphasis on news. The company has reported a decrease in the proportion of adults using Facebook for news and user surveys indicating a preference for less news on the platform. However, critics believe that Meta’s threats to withdraw from news should not be dismissed, and the government may have misjudged the situation.

While negotiations and the regulatory process continue, many newsrooms face uncertainty and potential disruptions. Traffic and revenue sources from platforms like Google are significant for publications like the Globe and Mail and Le Devoir. The cancellation of existing deals and funding by Meta will further impact the industry.

Despite the challenges posed by tech giants, Levasseur remains optimistic, stating that La Presse has adapted to previous upheavals in the news business. The publication, which is profitable and relies on advertising and reader donations, believes it can adjust and thrive in the future.


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