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Minister urges U.S. to stand strong with Canada in regulating tech giants like Meta


Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge is urging the United States to stand strong with Canada over regulating tech giants in order to protect the news industry, which she said is vital to preserving Western democracies.

St-Onge delivered a keynote address at the Open Markets Institute's Center for Journalism and Liberty in Washington, D.C.

"More than anything, we need to stand strong together. Facebook may be trying to intimidate Canada, but really they're trying to talk to the world," St-Onge said.

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, recently removed local news from its platforms in response to Canada's Online News Act.

It has threatened to do the same in other countries, including the U.S., if they move forward with similar policies.

The Online News Act, which is currently in its regulatory phase and will come in effect by December, will force tech companies to compensate news publishers for work that is shared or otherwise repurposed on their platforms.

St-Onge alluded to the idea that Meta is opening up their platforms to misinformation and disinformation by removing news sources, and that G7 countries should not accept tech giants moving to skirt laws as that ultimately hurts their democracies.

"They don't want to be regulated, period," St-Onge said. "They are shaping and curating the online environment for us. They are making decisions for us. And that's not the way our countries or our democracies work."

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who sponsored a similar bill in the U.S., said she's spent a lot of time consulting with Canada about it.

That bill proposes that Meta and Google should negotiate deals with news organizations for access to their content. Meta has responded by threating to pull news in the U.S.

Unlike in Canada, the U.S. bill has received bipartisan support, which Klobuchar said "cannot be any more important."

In Canada, the Conservatives have said the Online News Act is ushering in censorship despite the party running on similar policy in the last federal election.

Speaking at the same event as St-Onge, Klobuchar said she has a lot of hope for her bill "because of the fact Canada is moving ahead with its negotiation."

She praised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for "correctly" calling out Facebook "for putting corporate profits over people's safety."

"People can wrap themselves in the Constitution, but if they're serious about doing something about the First Amendment, that means making sure we have strong media and strong reporters and journalism," said Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota.

Both countries say the regulations are necessary to crack down on Google and Meta, whose domination of the advertising market has taken away revenue from news organizations and ultimately led to newsroom cuts.

"Keep up the faith here, and keep up our belief in our friends across the border," Klobuchar said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2023.



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