Canada's tech giant boycott worth $11.4 million: report

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says that while the federal government ceased social media ad spending, the Liberal Party would not cease spending thousands of dollars on ads.

Canada's tech giant boycott worth $11.4 million: report
Facebook/ Pablo Rodriguez
Remove Ads

Pulling federal ads from Facebook and Instagram will cost Meta $11.4 million in ad revenue — less than 0.1% of its annual revenues. 

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez removed all federal ads from Meta's platforms as retaliation for the company blocking Canadian news content for Canadian users in response to Bill C-18, the Online News Act.

"They are superpowers," Rodriguez told reporters on July 5. "They are huge; they are rich, powerful; lots of big lawyers. They can be intimidating."

According to Blacklock's Reporter, federal departments and agencies spent $11,423,728 on Facebook and Instagram ads last year, revealing the latest Annual Report On Government Of Canada Advertising Activities. In 2022, Meta earned a net income of $39.4 billion on revenues of $116.6 billion.

The cost of a Canadian government boycott "is still a lot of money," said Rodriguez. "I think it sends a clear message on the intentions of the government."

Tensions amplified in June following Meta's decision to restrict access to news on its platform for 1.1 million Canadians — a move Rodriguez described as "pure intimidation tactics." He called the tech giant "unreasonable and irresponsible" for the maneuver.

On June 22, the company announced it would no longer permit the sharing and accessing of Canadian news copy on its platforms for Canadian users. This will take effect before Parliament legislates the bill.

The Online News Act mandates that tech giants enter revenue-sharing agreements with news publishers. Once the regulatory process is complete, Google and Meta must pay 35% of news expenditures for hundreds of media outlets, including the state broadcaster CBC, Bell, and Postmedia.

Since 2019, Parliament has financed outlets deemed "qualified" by the Canada Revenue Agency worth up to 25% of the annual payroll or $13,750 per newsroom employee. Canadian taxpayers annually subsidize media at $595 million — in addition to the $1.2 billion comprising 70% of the state broadcaster's budget. 

As of 2008, nearly 500 newsrooms in Canada have closed, according to Rodriguez. The media bailout program is set to expire on March 31, 2024.

The bill will go into effect by the end of the year after Commons passed a motion last month to support a series of Senate amendments.

"As promised, we are accepting amendments that ensure tech giants pay their fair share for the local, regional and national news content that they benefit from having on their platforms, and we are declining the amendments that undermine the objectives of the bill," Rodriguez told The Globe and Mail in a statement.

"Will ministries in the government and members of your caucus stop posting on Instagram and Facebook?" asked a reporter. "That's a conversation we can have," replied Rodriguez. "I think it's a conversation we could have regarding the caucus."

According to Blacklock's Reporter, Trudeau's heritage minister reiterated that while the federal government ceased social media ad spending, the Liberal Party would not cease spending thousands of dollars on ads.

"The government is one thing; the party is another," he said.

"Where is that money going to go?" asked a reporter. "We will reinvest it in major campaigns," replied Rodriguez, without delving into specifics.

On June 29, Google said it would join Facebook in suspending links to Canadian news stories to protest Bill C-18. Minister Rodriguez said his boycott did not extend to Google since "we are deeply convinced that Google's concerns will be resolved through regulations."

"Can you clarify exactly?" asked a reporter. "I can't negotiate in public," replied Rodriguez. Federal advertising with Google totalled $8.8 million last year.

In February, the tech giant blocked 3.3% of Canadian users from viewing news links for five weeks. It impacted more than 1.1 million IP addresses.

The company contends the test did not prevent Canadians from seeing news from outlets of their choice, adding the news comprises less than 2% of Google searches.

Remove Ads
Remove Ads

Don't Get Censored

Big Tech is censoring us. Sign up so we can always stay in touch.

Remove Ads