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Conservatives ran on similar media policy as Liberals, but now claim it’s censorship

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says Liberal legislation aimed at social media platforms is ushering in censorship, despite his party running on similar policy in the last federal election.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says Liberal legislation aimed at social media platforms is ushering in censorship, despite his party running on similar policy in the last federal election.

The Online News Act will require tech giants to enter into agreements that compensate Canadian news outlets for content shared or otherwise repurposed on their platforms.

Poilievre claimed the new law will make news disappear from the internet, and ban people from seeing news.

The Opposition leader made the remark after Meta announced it will permanently remove all news in Canada from its social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, in coming weeks in response to the law.

However, the Conservatives’ 2021 campaign platform under then-leader Erin O’Toole proposed a similar policy, calling on tech giants to fairly compensate media for the content they create through an arbitration process.

Poilievre was not made available for an interview. His spokesperson Sebastian Skamski said in a statement that a Conservative government would repeal the Online News Act.

Poilievre falsely claimed people will not be able to see news on the internet under the new law, passed in June.

“You have a prime minister passing a law to make news articles disappear from the internet. Who would have ever imagined in Canada the federal government would pass laws banning people from effectively seeing news,” Poilievre said to reporters on Tuesday.

News remains easily accessible on the internet in Canada regardless of Meta’s business decision.

In addition, individuals, politicians, community groups and governments will still be able to post content on Facebook and Instagram because publishers will be the sole ones affected, Meta has said.

News posted on Facebook and Instagram by Canadian publishers will also be viewable on the internet by those who live outside Canada.

The tech giant has collaborated with a digital literacy expert on a guide to teach Canadians about other ways they can get news on the internet, such as going directly to publishers’ websites, downloading mobile news apps and subscribing to news alerts.

The guide also recommends other ways people can view Canadian news: through newsletters, newspapers, local TV and radio, bookmarking web pages for later viewing, accessing news aggregators, listening to news podcasts and subscribing to various content feeds from websites.

When Australia introduced a similar law in 2021, Meta temporarily blocked news from Facebook. In that country Meta eventually entered into agreements with news publishers, and the minister never went through a designation process that would cause the law to specifically apply to Meta.

The Canadian government will not decide which companies are captured under the law. Instead, firms will be identified through a regulatory process of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, an arm’s-length administrative branch.

It has become common for countries to adopt policies and legislation that impose more controls on digital giants who dominate online advertising revenue.

A bill in California that is similar to the Online News Act could soon become law, prompting similar threats from Meta that it will remove news from its platforms in that state.

European Union regulators have hit Google with antitrust charges, saying the only way to satisfy competition concerns about its lucrative digital ad business is by selling off parts of the tech giant’s main money-maker.

The EU followed a similar move by the U.S., which wants to bust Google’s alleged monopoly on the online ad ecosystem.

Executive vice-president of the European Commission for a Europe Fit For the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, recently praised Canada’s Online News Act.

Vestager commended Ottawa’s efforts to ensure access to a free, independent media “on fair terms.”