Canada demands Meta to lift ban on local news to allow sharing wildfire information

Canada: The Canadian government has called on Meta to reverse its ban on sharing domestic news on its platforms, citing concerns about the impact on critical wildfire information in the western part of the country, Reuters reported.

Meta recently implemented a news block on its Facebook and Instagram platforms for all Canadian users in response to a new law requiring internet giants to compensate for news articles. Residents in the remote northern town of Yellowknife, facing wildfires, have complained to domestic media, stating that the ban prevented them from disseminating vital fire-related information through these platforms.

Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge criticised Meta’s decision as “reckless” and detrimental to the availability of essential information on Facebook and Instagram. She said, “Meta’s reckless choice to block news … is hurting access to vital information on Facebook and Instagram,” reported Reuters. She urged Meta to reinstate news sharing immediately for the safety of Canadians confronting this emergency, emphasising the need for more news in this critical situation.

Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez echoed these concerns, highlighting that the ban resulted in people lacking access to crucial information. Chris Bittle, a legislator from the ruling Liberal Party, also condemned Meta’s actions as “reckless and irresponsible”.

Ollie Williams, the operator of Yellowknife’s Cabin Radio digital station, reported that individuals had resorted to sharing screenshots of information on Facebook since they couldn’t share news feed links.

In response, a Meta spokesperson communicated via email that the company had activated the “Safety Check” feature on Facebook, allowing users to inform others of their safety during natural disasters or crises.

The spokesperson added that Canadians could still access content from official government agencies, emergency services, and non-governmental organisations on Facebook and Instagram. Meta argued that users primarily do not use their platform for news and asserted that forcing the company to pay for shared content would be unsustainable for its business.

Sunil Kumar Dhangadamajhi

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