CBC calls on Meta to take ‘humanitarian action,’ lift news ban in wildfire ravaged communities

Meta is blocking news content in Canada in response to the Online News Act

Meta logo on sign

The CBC has asked Meta to reconsider its news band in Canadian communities impacted by wildfires.

The letter from Catherine Tait, the public broadcaster’s president and CEO, states residents in the country’s north, including Indigenous Peoples, rely on Facebook to access “timely news about their community.”

People have been unable to do that since Meta’s recent move to pull news content on Facebook or Instagram in response to Bill C-18. Known as the Online News Act, it will require the company to pay news publishers for sharing their content on the respective platforms.

In the letter addressed to Sir Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of Global Affairs, Tait states CBC News and Radio-Canada info are among the news outlets that have platforms that serve the impacted communities.

“Given the emergency conditions, we are calling on you to exempt people in these communities from Meta’s current blockage of news accounts in Canada so that they are able to share critical news on those accounts, including evacuation order information.”

While Tait’s positioning is important, it does raise the question of whether there are other ways people in impacted areas can access timely news content.

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, has stated the bill should disclude CBC, given it’s a public broadcaster. However, Geist has taken issue with the CBC‘s push to access content on Facebook directly when there are other ways to view it.

In her letter, Tait further notes the move won’t force Meta to pay for the content at this time. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission released its plan to implement the act, which won’t come into effect until later this year.

A Meta spokesperson told MobileSyrup the company will not be commenting on the letter.

“We have been clear for many months that the broad scope of the Online News Act would impact the sharing of news content on our platforms,” the spokesperson said. “We remain focused on ensuring people in Canada can use our technologies to connect with loved ones and access information, which is how more than 70,000 people have marked themselves safe and over 1.5 million people have visited the Yellowknife and Kelowna Crisis Response pages on Facebook.”

Tait’s plea follows a push from a group of news publishers and broadcasters, including the CBC, to have the Competition Bureau investigate Meta’s news blocking.

Updated August 24th, 2023, 4:09pm ET: The article has been updated with a statement from Meta.

Image credit: Shutterstock 

Source: CBC