The UCP appeared to cry wolf Wednesday over alleged censorship by Meta. The company confirmed they did not target Premier Danielle Smith’s Facebook page, despite suspicion they had.
“There were no restrictions placed on the premier’s page,” said a Meta spokesperson Thursday morning.
“One of the page’s administrators faced restrictions, but that did not impact the underlying page’s ability to post content,” they clarified.
On Wednesday, the Premier’s Office (PO) alleged Smith received a temporary content ban on Facebook.
Ottawa recently made it clear to big tech — fall in line with Bill C-18, the Online News Act, or get lost.
If the controversial legislation passes the Senate, Parliament will compel Google and Meta to pay for Canadian journalism that helps the companies generate revenue.
Meta announced it would temporarily block up to 5% of Canadian users from accessing and sharing select news content for June in response to Bill C-18.
In February, Google blocked 3.3% of Canadian users from viewing news links for five weeks. It impacted more than 1.1 million IP addresses.
"Big tech and government censorship is becoming a danger to free speech around the world," tweeted Smith, alleging Wednesday her Facebook page would face restrictions for a "few days."
The PO told Rebel News they were waiting for further information and clarification from Facebook.
"As the Premier of a province of 4.6 million Albertans — if they can prevent me from communicating with you, imagine what they can do to any of us," she said.
"Regardless of our political leanings, we must all stand against censorship."
On Thursday, the PO reported they could post on Facebook again. “I hope this is the last time it happens,” tweeted Smith.
Jen Gerson, co-founder of the online newsletter The Line, said the claim the premier was censored doesn’t hold.
“One of the several admins on her page was temporarily restricted because he was also an admin on 300 other pages, and probably tripped a spam file,” she said, adding that “any of the other admins on the premier's page could have posted content this entire time.”
Meta has yet to explain why the undisclosed page admin could not post to Facebook, other than to say for "security reasons."
The company said last week it is prepared to permanently end access to news content in Canada if Parliament passes Bill C-18. Google otherwise seeks a compromise with Ottawa.
Each company proposed amendments in the Senate, including tweaks on which publishers they would enter into revenue-sharing agreements with. Google expressed concerns with publishers having no obligation to adhere to a code of ethics.
"We're very concerned about the path we're on and we're doing everything we can to engage constructively and avoid a negative outcome for Canadians," said Google spokesperson Shay Purdy, clarifying the company wants to increase its investment in Canadian news.
But Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez claimed the legislation is already balanced.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also clarified a compromise on Bill C-18 is not in the cards.
"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.
“It's not going to work."
Since 2019, Parliament has subsidized outlets deemed "qualified" by the Canada Revenue Agency, worth up to 25% of the annual payroll or $13,750 per newsroom employee.
The $595 million bailout program expires on March 31, 2024.