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Facebook is wrong to say news lacks economic value, says Canada PM Trudeau


Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Blair Gable/File Photo

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday said Meta Platforms Inc’s (META.O) opposition to proposed legislation that would compel payment by its Facebook unit and other internet companies for journalistic content was based on a flawed argument that news has no economic value.

Speaking to a parliamentary committee about the Trudeau government’s legislation on Monday, a Meta official said news has a social value, but not an economic value to the company.

“If we are being asked to compensate these publishers for material that has no economic value to us, that’s where the problem is,” Meta’s head of public policy in Canada, Rachel Curran, told the committee.

Trudeau on Tuesday said, “that argument that the internet giants are putting forward is not just flawed, it’s dangerous to our democracy, to our economy.”

Facebook’s stance against paying news content “shows how deeply irresponsible and out of touch they are,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

The legislation, bill C-18 or the “Online News Act”, proposes rules to force platforms like Facebook and Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers for their content, a move similar to a ground-breaking law passed in Australia in 2021.

Both Google and Meta have warned they would withdraw access to news articles on their platforms in Canada if the bill is passed into law without amendments. Their main objection is paying for links to news articles posted on their websites that they say would be unsustainable for their businesses.

Facebook says links to news articles make up less than 3% of the content on its users’ feed, and that journalists benefit from posting their work on the social media platform.

“Someone reporting on the horrors in Bucha (in Ukraine) is not trying to get likes on their Facebook page,” Trudeau said.