Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau excoriated Mark Zuckerberg-run Meta as “bad for democracy” on Monday after it began blocking access to news stories on Facebook while wildfires destroy wide swaths of his country.
“It is so inconceivable that a company like Facebook is choosing to put corporate profits ahead of ensuring that local news organizations can get up-to-date information to Canadians and reach them,” Trudeau told reporters before a cabinet meeting on Prince Edward Island on Monday.
The news blockade comes after Meta announced earlier this summer that Canada-based users of its social media platforms would not be able to click into news stories from local Canadian outlets due to a new law that requires the tech giant to negotiate payment with publishers for content.
“In a larger picture, that’s bad for democracy because democracy depends on people being able to trust high-quality journalism and of all sorts of different perspectives and points of view,” Trudeau railed on Monday.
“But right now, in an emergency situation, up-to-date local information is more important than ever.”
Trudeau sent in the military to tackle fast-spreading wildfires in British Columbia as the western province deals with flames that have led to evacuation orders for more than 35,000 people.
A Meta rep told the Associated Press that the company was standing by its decision while pointing out that people in Canada can continue to use Facebook and Instagram “to connect with their communities and access reputable information, including content from officials.”
As fires closed in on Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories last week, Facebook introduced the “Safety Check” feature that would “allow people to let their friends and family know they are safe.”
The Post has sought comment from Meta.
Zuckerberg has said the Online News Act, which was approved by the Canadian parliament this year, “is based on the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, when the reverse is true.”
People in Canada are not able to view or share news on Facebook and Instagram — including news articles, videos and audio posted by outlets inside or outside Canada.
Links posted by Canadian outlets are still visible in other countries.
Alphabet-owned Google, which has also protested the Canadian law, said it plans to follow suit and block news in Canada.
Hundreds of fires in British Columbia have forced tens of thousands of residents to evacuate over the weekend.
Canada has seen a record number of wildfires this year that have also caused choking smoke to waft across parts of the US — even turning New York City into an apocalyptic scene this spring.
All told, there have been more than 5,700 fires, which have burned more than 53,000 square miles (about the size of New York state) from one end of Canada to the other, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center.
There are still more than 1,000 active fires in the country, according to the agency.
Meta in recent years has altered Facebook’s algorithm to de-amplify news in favor of photos, videos, and content created and shared by family and friends — resulting in a considerable drop in referral traffic for publishers.
Source by [New York Post]