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OPINION: Facebook unfriended us, but news doesn't stop

'Let’s hope the federal government and the Zuckerbergs of the world realize it’s beneficial to all sides to share as much news content as possible, wherever and whenever,' says columnist Wendy King
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In a nutshell, Facebook (Meta) has unfriended all Canadian media companies.

You have likely noticed you can no longer share, or even post, any links from your favourite Canadian news websites onto your own Facebook page. A notice will pop up saying it’s not allowed.

This was prompted when Canada passed Bill C-18, known as the Online News Act.

In my non-legal mind, it basically requires big-tech companies to compensate news outlets for sharing links to their pages.

Critics say it’s unfair and amounts to a tax on links with no recognition for the free marketing the tech companies provide to news publishers.

Meta’s Lisa LaVenture counters that position, saying, “News outlets voluntarily share content to expand their audiences and help their bottom line.”

Here is the view of Village Media chief executive officer Jeff Elgie, who has said it will “devastate the industry.”

“In effect, this would mean that our Facebook and Instagram accounts would go dark — and readers would not be able to post or share our content on those social channels. Google would no longer carry links to our sites or articles,” he has said.

We are already seeing some of that happen, particularly on Facebook.

“Village Media’s position is that it’s been a bad bill from the start,” Elgie said. “The premise of the bill was that Google/Facebook ‘steal’ our content when nothing could be further from the truth. As you know, we go out of our way to make sure our content is very search-friendly and we happily put our content on Facebook — because we get massive value back from those traffic sources.

“As a company ‘born digital’ we have learned to work with them as friends and partners. Any possible attempts to explain this have fallen on deaf ears with our government — from the House to the Senate and particularly with our heritage minister.”

If I read that correctly, it sounds like the federal government picked an unnecessary fight.

As a local columnist with Village Media, I shared my articles to as many places as I could to link it back to my publishing company. It was a win-win.

I have so enjoyed being able to share my column with you and read your feedback.

At the moment, I believe I can still post a link to the newly named X, or Twitter, or whatever it’s being called now.

You can always find your local news and Canadian content by going directly to the website, or can sign up for the daily email, which goes out at 3 p.m.

In the meantime, let’s hope the federal government and the Zuckerbergs of the world realize it’s beneficial to all sides to share as much news content as possible, wherever and whenever.

Don’t allow the last bastions of local news to get lost somewhere in cyberspace. Regardless of whether you realize it, local news is the backbone of any community. I also don’t want to see only American news, and I doubt you do, either.

A similar struggle occurred in Australia and the powers-that-be worked out an agreement.

This issue recently has come to a head in Canada, so keep an eye on your feeds and what’s getting blocked.

Selfishly, I don’t want to lose my connections with you, the readers, and I hope you feel the same.