Trudeau's censorship czar Pablo Rodriguez has finally retaliated against Meta for not complying with Bill C-18, the Online News Act. Effective immediately, the federal government will no longer advertise on Facebook and Instagram.
"We have decided to take the necessary step of suspending all Government of Canada advertising to Facebook," he said. "We cannot continue paying advertising dollars to Meta while they refuse to pay their fair share to Canadian news organizations."
Tensions amplified 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 "irresponsible" for the maneuver.
Paul Deegan, CEO of News Media Canada, said Meta's move to censor Canadian users from viewing and sharing news is a "kick in the shins."
On May 30, Deegan testified to the Senate transport and communications committee on Bill C-18, calling Meta's decision to 'unfriend' Canada "irresponsible and tone deaf" because it restricts access to 'trusted news sources.'
He warned if Facebook permanently blocked news sharing, it would restrict public access to reliable information.
On June 22, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced it would no longer permit the sharing and accessing of news copy on its platforms. This will take effect before Parliament legislates the bill.
The bill will go into effect by the end of the year after Commons passed a motion to support most of the Senate amendments.
"As promised, we are accepting amendments that ensure tech giants pay their fair share for the local, regional and national news content," Rodriguez told reporters.
"What would be left on their platform? They're the plumbing of social media, and you have clean drinking water, which is news," added Deegan. "But then you have all sorts of sewage: the misinformation and disinformation."
"What this bill is about is ensuring that local news survives."
Google also promised to start blocking Canadian news when the bill is enacted in six months.
"I'm surprised by Google's reaction," said Rodriguez.
Trudeau's censorship czar maintains the government is in talks with the company and believes their concerns will be managed by the regulations that will come to implement the bill.
The Online News Act mandates that tech giants enter revenue-sharing agreements with news publishers. News Media Canada, which advocates for the domestic news industry, urged all stakeholders to "act in good faith" and engage in the regulatory process.
However, despite Google's participation in the regulatory process, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clarified 'no compromise' is in the cards, with proposed changes from the tech giants falling on deaf ears.
"The fact that these internet giants would rather cut off Canadians' access to local news than pay their fair share is a real problem, and now they're resorting to bullying tactics to try and get their way," he told reporters on June 7. "It's not going to work."
While most outlets have praised the bill over its commitment to "enhance fairness" in the industry and bolster their dwindling revenues, not everyone is thrilled about their prospects.
"Everything about this bill is a disaster," said Jen Gerson of Calgary, co-founder of the online newsletter The Line. She called government meddling in the media a "poisonous thing" for news media integrity.
Jeff Elgie, CEO of Village Media, testified to senators that his business would cease if Meta and Google stopped linking news stories from his publication.
He said that giving Bill C-18 royal assent presents "a much worse outcome" than not having tech giants surrender a portion of advertising revenues.
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.
The parent company to Bell reportedly axed 1,300 jobs earlier this month as a cost-cutting measure to "significantly adapt" how it delivers the news.
"The world has changed, and the same way we're adapting to platforms, well, the platforms also have to adapt to the new reality," Rodriguez said in an interview.
However, some prominent publishers told a Senate committee they would lose millions of dollars should Meta and Google block their content.
Canadian taxpayers annually subsidize media at $595 million — in addition to the $1.2 billion comprising 70% of the state broadcaster's budget.
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.
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.
Should Google and Meta follow through on censoring Canadian news, the minister said his government would ensure newsrooms have resources beyond the existing funding programs and tax credits.
"We have to make sure that newsrooms are open, that [journalists] can do their job, and [they] have the resources necessary," he said.