In the digital age, many Canadians, like people worldwide, turn to social media platforms for news. Platforms like Facebook (now Meta), Instagram, and Twitter (now X) have become integral for news dissemination. This shift has challenged the traditional news industry, with claims of over 450 local Canadian news outlets closing in the past fifteen years.[1] Some attribute this trend directly to the growth of tech giants like Google and Meta.[2] As an attempt to address this, Canada introduced Bill C-18, the Online News Act, aiming to support Canadian media outlets. However, the bill’s potential impact remains a topic of debate, especially in light of global movements to make tech giants pay for the news being shared through their platforms as outlined below.

Understanding Bill C-18

On June 21, 2022, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-18, the Online News Act.[3] This legislation aims to regulate online platforms distributing news to Canadian audiences, ensuring fair compensation for Canadian media outlets and journalists. The Act proposes a framework to support Canadian news businesses when their content is shared on major digital platforms. This includes hyperlinks, tweets, and links to Canadian news websites. The term “digital news intermediary” is broad, covering platforms like Google and Meta. However, private messaging apps like WhatsApp and Discord are excluded.

The Act allows for exemptions for digital platforms that have agreements with news businesses to provide fair compensation.[4] The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will oversee these agreements. While exact compensation figures are not specified in the Act, some estimates suggest potential annual compensations to Canadian news businesses could reach $329.2 million, with associated transaction and compliance costs.[5]


Meta has made an official statement saying the following:

“The legislation is based on the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, when the reverse is true. News outlets voluntarily share content on Facebook and Instagram to expand their audiences and help their bottom line. In contrast, we know the people using our platforms don’t come to us for news.”[6]

Google is concerned that the Online News Act creates “uncapped financial liability”, because now whenever any news outlet publishes a news article – Google will be liable to pay for it.[7] Here’s what the Google & Alphabet’s President of Global Affairs, Kent Walker, had to say about Bill C-18:

“As part of our Google News Showcase program, we have negotiated agreements covering over 150 news publications across Canada. Last year alone, we linked to Canadian news publications more than 3.6 billion times — at no charge — helping publishers make money through ads and new subscriptions. This referral traffic from links has been valued at $250 million CAD annually. We’re willing to do more; we just can’t do it in a way that breaks the way that the web and search engines are designed to work, and that creates untenable product and financial uncertainty.”[8]

Several countries have introduced legislation addressing similar concerns:

  • European Union (EU): The Digital Single Market Directive of 2019 introduced Articles 15 and 17, allowing publishers to seek compensation from platforms using their news content.[9] EU member states are integrating this directive into national laws.[10]
  • France: In 2020, France mandated Google to negotiate payments with publishers for news content, leading to licensing agreements with several French news publishers.[11]
  • Spain: The “Google Tax” or AEDE Law requires platforms to compensate news publishers for content snippets.[12] This law remains active, even though Google News exited Spain in 2014.[13]
  • Germany: An ancillary copyright law in Germany allows news publishers to seek compensation from search engines and aggregators for content snippets.[14]
  • Australia: In March 2021, Australia became the first country to use competition law to push Google and then-Facebook to pay for news.[15] The News Media Bargaining Code has resulted in over $140 million USD ($200 million AUD) being injected into journalism in Australia annually since its inception.[16] The threat of designation is having the appropriate and intended impact. Following the introduction of the code, Google and Facebook (now Meta) have reached voluntary commercial agreements with a significant number of news media organisations.[17]
  • UK: The UK government is laying the groundwork to compel tech giants to pay news publishers for their content, although the exact timeline remains uncertain.[18]
  • US: While no similar laws exist, discussions are ongoing. In the US, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act proposes allowing news publishers to negotiate with tech giants.[19]

Impact on Canadians

There are concerns that Bill C-18’s ambiguity might lead companies like Google and Meta to limit news content access for Canadians and we have already seen this happen. Reports suggest that Google might delist Canadian news links,[20] and Meta has already been restricting news on Facebook and Instagram for Canadian users.[21] Such actions could push Canadians towards less reliable news sources, potentially amplifying misinformation. Additionally, reduced visibility for Canadian news outlets might further strain their revenues.[22] This situation becomes especially alarming in the face of ongoing crises, such as the current wildfires in Canada. [23] As the public often relies on platforms like Google and Facebook for real-time information, these restrictions could mean that many Canadians might not receive crucial updates on wildfires as they used to. Such a lack of timely and accurate information is not only a public safety issue but could also lead to uninformed decisions during emergency situations.[24]

Political Reactions and Future Outlook

Political responses to Bill C-18 are mixed. The Bloc Québécois and NDP have expressed support for the bill’s objectives,[25] while the Conservative Party has reportedly voted against it.[26] Notable figures, including Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre, have voiced concerns about the bill’s potential repercussions.[27] The bill received Royal Assent on June 22nd, 2023, and is expected to be implemented approximately six months later.[28] The next steps are:[29]

  1. The Governor in Council will release regulations detailing the Act’s application.
  2. The CRTC will establish procedures for the Act’s implementation, including bargaining and news business designation.
  3. During this time, digital platforms and news businesses can negotiate agreements outside the legislative framework.

Conclusion & Editorial Note

Bill C-18, the Online News Act, is Canada’s response to the evolving relationship between big tech and the media. While the bill aims to level the playing field, there are concerns about unintended consequences, such as reduced news access for Canadians. As the bill moves towards implementation, its true impact on Canada’s media landscape remains to be seen, especially in the broader context of global efforts to make tech giants pay for news.

It is worth noting that while tech giants like Google and Meta benefit from diverse content on their platforms, news outlets also rely on these platforms for visibility and audience reach. The symbiotic relationship between news outlets and tech platforms is complex. The team at Grassroots Public Affairs will continue monitoring the implementation of Bill C-18 and its impact closely.






























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