Meta spokesperson says it's not negotiating with federal government over online news law
Liberal government's Online News Act became law last week
Meta's head of public policy in Canada says there are no talks underway with the federal government on the new online streaming law and the social media giant is moving on its threat to drop Canadian news from its platforms.
"We are proceeding towards ending the availability of news permanently in Canada," Rachel Curran told Power & Politics on Tuesday.
Bill C-18 became law last week. The law requires big tech giants like Google and Meta to pay media outlets for news content they share or otherwise repurpose on their platforms.
WATCH | Meta spokesperson says there are no talks with government underway
Meta has said it will comply with the law by removing news from its Facebook and Instagram platforms by the end of the year.
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has said he hopes the Liberal government can negotiate an agreement with Meta that allows news to remain available on the company's platforms and also follows the rules laid out in C-18.
But Curran said there is no room for negotiations with the bill as written.
"Our trajectory is set. There is no way to negotiate out of the framework of this bill," she told host David Cochrane.
Bill C-18 is modelled on a similar law in Australia, the country that first forced digital companies to pay for the use of news content.
Meta, known as Facebook at the time, temporarily blocked Australians from sharing news stories on its platform. The Australian government and the tech company ended up striking a deal and the news ban was lifted.
Rodriguez has pointed to the deal reached in Australia as proof that one can be made in Canada.
But Curran said the Australian law was different because it allowed the company to negotiate private deals with publishers outside of the framework of the regulations. C-18 does not, she said.
"I wish there was a way to reach deals or come to some kind of compromised solution outside the framework of Bill C-18," she said. "But there's really not."
Meta currently has private deals to compensate 18 Canadian news outlets. Curran, who was director of policy to former prime minister Stephen Harper, said those deals could be at risk with the passage of C-18.
Rodriguez says Ottawa will ensure newsrooms have resources
Google said it came close to blocking news access itself as Bill C-18 came closer to passing, but an "11th-hour" meeting with Rodriguez resulted in the company delaying the decision. The company said it had "aggressively" pursued Rodriguez so that it could express its displeasure over the legislation.
Rodriguez disputed the characterization of the meeting with Google as a last-ditch effort. He said he usually meets stakeholders when a bill is introduced and again as it passes, and that his department met with Google representatives several times throughout the process.
But he told the Canadian Press that if companies remove news from their platforms in response to the bill, the government will make sure newsrooms have the resources they need to allow journalists to continue their work.
He wouldn't say how his government will ensure newsrooms have resources. He said every option is on the table.
With files from The Canadian Press