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Understanding Bill C-18: Canada's Online News Act and its proposed rules, explained

Canada's controversial Bill C-18 became law in June, requiring big tech companies to compensate media organizations if they want to continue to host Canadian news content on their platforms.

Both Google and Meta – the company behind Facebook and Instagram – have stated that they will instead be blocking Canadian news from their platforms in response to the new law.

For Meta, this is now underway, with the company saying on Aug. 1 the changes "start today, and will be implemented…over the course of the next few weeks." After testing a news block earlier this year in anticipation of this bill passing, Google had indicated it may follow suit depending on how the final regulatory framework is drafted.

As of now, these are the only two platforms being eyed by the government's regulations, but that could change as other social media or search engines gain traction. 

So, what does this bill, and the responses from the tech giants, actually mean for Canadians?

In brief, Google and Meta have taken the position that they'll eliminate access to news content on their platforms, rather than pay to host it, so Canadians may no longer see it appear on Facebook, Instagram and Google.

Instead, audiences will have to seek news out directly from media organizations on their websites and apps, or on other platforms such as "X", since the content produced by Canadian news organizations will be blocked by Meta and Google.

Here's everything you need to know about where this issue stands, as of Sept. 1. 

What is Bill C-18?

Bill C-18, or the Online News Act, lays out a framework that would require digital giants Google and Meta to develop agreements with Canadian news sites to provide them with compensation for sharing their journalistic content that appears on their platforms

This has been proposed by establishing a last-resort bargaining framework between platforms and media outlets, while incentivizing voluntary commercial agreements that can be reached independent of this Act without forcing two sides to a negotiation table.

"It seeks to support balanced negotiations between the businesses that operate dominant digital news intermediaries and the businesses responsible for the news outlets that produce this news content," an explanatory note from the government says

First presented in 2022, the legislation comes amid years of major declines in news ad revenue. The bill was based on a similar policy initiative in Australia called the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.

Australia's code enables eligible news businesses to bargain individually or collectively with digital platforms over payment for the inclusion of news on the platforms and services, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The federal government says the bill was passed in order to help the Canadian news industry, which has seen falling subscriptions and ad revenue over time as those profits shift to these companies.

According to an Angus Reid report released in July, 85 per cent of Canadians do not pay for any online news subscriptions and Canadians under the age of 64 usually check social media sites such as Facebook and Reddit first to get their news. Federal statistics indicate that while 69 per cent of Canadians access news online, just 11 per cent of Canadians pay for it.

While an earlier Parliamentary Budget Office estimate pegged that the bill would shift around $329 million to the Canadian news industry, the most recent figure being offered by the federal government is $234 million.

The overall compensation is still subject to change based on how the rules are finalized, and this is based on the assumption that the platforms come to the bargaining table.

When will the Online News Act be in effect?

The Online News Act is set to come into effect no later than 180 days after June 22, the day it received Royal Assent. This means the new policies within the bill are on track to be in effect as of December 2023.

Work is underway now on the federal government side of the bill to create the regulatory framework that will bring Bill C-18 into effect.

On Sept. 1, the Department of Canadian Heritage released the proposed regulations for implementing the Online News Act, providing what senior officials framed as the clarity platforms asked for around the implications of the new law. Unveiling the regulations has kicked off consultations with key stakeholders on how the framework should be finalized.

According to the proposed regulations, platforms will fall under the Act if they meet these three criteria:

  • They have a total global revenue of $1 billion (CAD) or more in a calendar year
  • They operate a search engine or social media site, distributing and providing access to news content in Canada
  • They have 20 million or more Canadian average monthly unique visitors or average monthly active users

Eligible platforms have 30 calendar days to notify the CRTC upon meeting these criteria. Right now, only Meta's Facebook and Google are expected meet this threshold, but officials said they are keeping an eye on other platforms that may become eligible as they expand, naming the search engine Bing as an example.

The CRTC is also working on its own consultations around the mandatory bargaining process, the code of conduct to support fairness and transparency, the rules on undue preference or discrimination, and the eligibility of news businesses through their own separate regulatory process. 

Can platforms apply for an exemption?

In short, yes. But that will come at a cost.

Should Meta and Google decide to play ball and want to restore news access, instead of pursuing Online News Act-based compensation negotiations with news organizations, they could propose other equivalent supports to the industry.

Under the current proposal, to obtain an exemption, platforms must "sufficiently" support the Canadian news marketplace.

This can happen through both monetary and non-monetary contributions such as training or traffic, but the overall compensation is being estimated at needing to be equivalent to $172 million for Google and $62 million for Facebook (potentially more if Instagram is included) based on the government's proposed formula.

This equation is based on the tech giant's global revenues and Canada's estimated share of their global GDP.

The government is suggesting that fair agreements would be those that:

  • are within 20 per cent of average relative journalist compensation
  • commit to the production of news content
  • protect journalistic independence and the editorial process
  • include collectives of certain size representing independent local, Indigenous and official language minority community news businesses

Prior agreements between platforms and news businesses can be considered.

What's the latest reaction from the tech giants?

Upon the release of the proposed regulations, Meta was quick out of the gate to say what's been presented will not impact their decision to end news availability. In their view, the government's draft rules are based on a "fundamentally flawed premise."

"As the legislation is based on the incorrect assertion that Meta benefits unfairly from the news content shared on our platforms, today's proposed regulations will not impact our business decision to end news availability in Canada," said Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada, on Sept. 1.

Google Canada spokesperson Shay Purdy said the company is "carefully reviewing the proposed regulations to assess whether they resolve the serious structural issues with C-18 that regrettably were not dealt with during the legislative process."

The search engine has previously called the bill a "link tax," saying that it "breaks the way the web and search engines have worked for more than 30 years," and may expose them to "uncapped financial liability."

Where will news be blocked?

Currently, content from Canadian news platforms is not visible on Facebook or Instagram for most Canadians. 

Meta said Aug. 1 that the company had "begun the process of ending news availability in Canada," and that the changes will be implemented for all Canadian users of its social media platforms.

The news block includes links to news articles and video or audio posted by Canadian news outlets. Any links or other content will not be viewable by the public. News publishers outside of Canada will be able to continue to post, but their content will not be visible by Canadian users either.

During recent wildfire emergencies, Meta's refusal to pull back on this news pullout was widely condemned by political and community leaders.

According to a June 29 statement from Google, should it go ahead with removing news access, links to Canadian news will eventually be removed from its Search, News and Discover products.

The company noted that users would still receive its SOS Alerts, which provide relevant safety information in the event of a crisis such as a forest fire, flood or earthquake.

How are news organizations impacted?

Publications that make the delivery of news their main focus are meant to be the beneficiaries of Bill C-18. Instead, "eligible news businesses" are having to find ways to go around the tech giants to distribute their journalism.

The definition of what counts as a news business according to the legislation is an “individual or entity that operates a news outlet in Canada,” and a news outlet is any entity whose “primary purpose is to produce news content.”

The legislation states that news businesses are considered eligible as long as they fall under certain requirements, including:

  • producing news content of “public interest”;
  • employing two or more journalists in Canada;
  • operating in Canada; and
  • following the code of ethics of a recognized journalistic association or its own code of ethics that aligns with journalistic integrity.

An eligible news business also must produce news content “that is not primarily focused on a particular topic such as industry-specific news, sports, recreation, arts, lifestyle or entertainment,” according to Bill C-18, suggesting that lifestyle magazines and similar publications may not be affected by Google and Meta blocks.

CTV News, CP24 and BNN Bloomberg, which are all part of Bell Media and owned by parent company BCE, will be affected by the news block. In response, Bell Media has pulled all of its advertising from Meta.

How to access news amid Meta's ban

Canadians are still able to access Canadian news sources by navigating directly to their websites, or mobile apps.

Signing up for newsletters or subscriptions is another way to stay up to date with the latest news directly from the sources that matter most to you.

Bookmarking your most frequently visited news websites now will allow you to navigate to them quickly even if their links are not being shared when you search a topic on Google.

Canadians will also still be able to see news from international news sources through Google.

How do different parties, stakeholders view Bill C-18?

Supporters of the Liberal government's bill say that it is a way to keep tech giants in check and cut into their digital dominance.

As more than 400 Canadian newsrooms closed their doors between 2008 and 2023, supporters of a fair compensation plan say journalists should be remunerated for their work being used to help tech giants bring in more eyes and thus more ad revenue.

"Canadians rely on digital platforms to access their news and information, but these tech platforms have to act responsibly and support the news sharing they and Canadians both benefit from," said Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge in a Sept. 1 statement.

"The Online News Act requires these dominant platforms to bargain fairly with news businesses—both big and small… Tech giants can and must contribute their fair share—nothing more. Canadians expect a vibrant news landscape where we can get the facts when we need them," St-Onge said. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously said Meta and Google’s “bullying tactics” will not work and that his government is trying to ensure those companies do not weaken Canada’s democracy by threatening its media industry.

Even before the platform pullouts began, Bill C-18 prompted debate in Parliament and beyond. 

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has criticized the legislation as an attempt by Trudeau to "control the news Canadians see."

Reacting to the latest Meta move Aug. 1, the Official Opposition leader suggested "it's like 1984."

"You have a prime minister passing a law to make news articles disappear from the internet. Who would ever have imagined that in Canada, the federal government would pass laws banning people from effectively seeing the news?" he said.

"Whether it's big tech, or Trudeau's big government, censorship is always and everywhere, wrong."

Others have voiced concern that Google and Meta blocking news links from Canadian news sources will lead to a drop in media literacy.

Tech and cybersecurity expert Ritesh Kotak told CTV News Channel in late June that the removal of news from Google and Meta's platforms could lead users to rely on unverified stories, making "deciphering fact from fiction" that much more difficult.

"This is a serious problem for news organizations and also members of the public," he said, adding that news outlets should do more to promote their own platforms. 

With files from The Canadian Press


An earlier version of this article suggested that Google's testing phase of its plan to block local news was still underway. These tests wrapped up in mid-March.



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