In the wake of Meta blocking news from its social media platforms, The Quebec Community Newspapers Association (QCNA) has released a list of tips to guide its members. Without the ability to share direct links on Canadian Instagram or Facebook, domestic news outlets are scrambling to keep reaching their online audiences.
Due to the recent passing of the Online News Act (Bill C-18), social media giants are now required to pay for posting and linking news articles. In response, Meta chose to remove news content from both its main platforms. Meta’s stance has long been that the Online News Act is bad for business, given that it places a price on links shared by users. The company enacted the ban on its platforms well in advance of the law’s expected implementation, at the end of this year.
The QCNA recently circulated a guide listing alternative options for members to share their articles. One option involves sending group messages to Facebook followers, encouraging them to subscribe to their newsletters directly. Other possibilities include VPNs, shortcut links and QR codes.
The guide also recommended refocusing on other social media outlets, such as LinkedIn, Mastodon and Twitter, recently rebranded as X. Tools such as Dlvr.it and Hootsuite allow users to share their latest news publications straight to social networks. Even the stories section of Instagram and Facebook could be used as a loophole to distribute news. The organization encourages its members to send them feedback regarding their tactics.
QCNA Vice President Nikki Mantell says that the Meta block has impacted the growth prospects of her publication, The Low Down to Hull & Back News. Mantell says that smaller news agencies struggle to compete with the major advertising platforms run by Meta. She claims that Facebook was originally a “primary driver of traffic” to her outlet.
Mantell qualified that many publishers had mixed feelings about Bill C-18, because they anticipated Meta’s reaction, and felt the outcome could have been avoided. That being said, she still described Meta’s blockage as “going nuclear” and “way over the top.” Stating that many in the Canadian news business are in “precarious positions,” she concluded that “we are dealing with a giant who has disrupted our industry so badly.”
With the ban in place, Mantell says that The Low Down has turned to cultivating its subscriber base through newsletter distribution. News companies such as hers have begun directing audiences to go right to their publication websites, and bookmark them. Mantell wants users to develop the habit of going to media sources themselves, rather than expecting announcements on Facebook feeds. Readers are also encouraged to buy print copies or to subscribe. Even with the adjustments, Mantell admits that the block has made “this already struggling industry so much more difficult.”
The block by Meta was strongly condemned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Referring to blocked coverage of the summer’s severe wildfires, Trudeau claimed that Facebook was putting profits above public safety. Some who fled the fires complained to domestic media outlets that they were unable to share important information. While Facebook’s safety check feature could be used by citizens to mark their status, the block still prevented people from accessing local news updates.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has shared its plan for a bargaining system for news outlets and platforms to negotiate. A government agency tasked with supervising broadcasting and telecommunications, the CRTC plans to launch a public consultation this fall, to gather opinions and perspectives. Negotiations are expected to start in late 2024, or early 2025.