Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has criticised Meta’s decision to ban all news from its Facebook app during an ongoing wildfire emergency in the country.
It is estimated as of today (24 August) that over 3,000,000 acres of land have been burned in the severe wildfires.
Trudeau has described the news ban as “inconceivable” during a recent press conference.
Meta has also been accused by the President of putting profits before user safety due to the ban. Explaining this accusation, Trudeau refers to the recent passing of legislation that protects the rights of journalists or news agencies whose work is promoted on the platform to be paid a fair wage.
The Online News Act ensured that news companies could negotiate wages with social media platforms like Facebook to ensure that their work was not used without compensation.
According to GlobalData analytics, Facebook itself has around 2 billion monthly active users.
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The 2023 Digital News Report by the University of Oxford found that the number of people solely reading their news on social media had surpassed those finding news from websites or prints for the first time.
The study hypothesises that recent geopolitical events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine, has contributed to this behaviour change as people seek out quicker news updates.
Whilst retrieving news on social media platforms can lead to a rise in potential misinformation or fake news, such as anti-vaccination posts, GlobalData explains that social media and digital media have a “natural kinship”.
In its 2022 thematic intelligence report into the media and tech sector, GlobalData explains that social media’s influence on information sharing will continue to grow exponentially.
Facebook’s decision to block live news during the wildfires can therefore significantly harm local Canadians’ safety by reducing the information they have quick access to.
In a statement posted to X (formerly Twitter), Canadian MP Pascale St-Onge stated that Meta’s ban was not only “irresponsible” but also claimed that the company has not “participated in the regulatory process”.
“A free and independent press is fundamental to our democracy,” explained St-Onge, “and Canadians expect tech giants to follow the law in our country.”
St-Onge also stated that she believes Canada’s actions towards Meta would send a message to other countries looking to implement similar regulation to the Online News Act.