The Modern Dystopia Censoring News Across the Nation

Skyler Xiang Skyler Xiang Instagram Oct 23, 2023 · 3 mins read
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In June 2023, the federal government passed Bill C-18, An Act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada—otherwise known as the Online News Act. You might have noticed the response to this legislation on Instagram— over the summer, every single reputed news source was blocked on Meta’s platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, and the block remains today. Currently, if a Canadian Instagram user tries to search for any reputable media company on the app, they are presented with a blank screen that reads, “People in Canada can’t see this content”. The Martingrove Beacon’s very own Instagram page was even blocked with the same message earlier this year. Without trusted news sources available at the tips of Canadians’ fingertips, unverified news and misinformation can run rampant through Instagram, Facebook, and Threads.

According to the Department of Justice, the purpose of Bill C-18 is to “support news businesses to secure fair compensation when their news content is made available by dominant digital news intermediaries and generates economic gain.” In other words, this legislation aims to ensure that journalists and news companies are paid fairly when their content is viewed and monetized on outlets that are not directly owned by those companies, especially in a “market environment that has been disadvantageous to news businesses.”

It’s no news that print media is on a steady decline—according to Statistics Canada, Canadian newspapers had a 23.9% decrease in print advertising sales from 2018 to 2020. People aren’t buying newspapers anymore, especially not our generation. What Gen Z prefers, instead, is Instagram. Before Instagram’s recent ban, news was widely available on the app— trusted Canadian and international news organizations would post their content in a quick, simple format, accessible by all, and most importantly, free.

CBC News used to post its articles in an easily digestible format on Instagram, but the power imbalance between the CBC and the $794 billion technology conglomerate, Meta, meant that the CBC had little control over how much of the revenue from its Instagram content went into its pocket, and how much went into Meta’s.

Bill C-18, however, aims to strengthen the “bargaining position” of news businesses in proportion to “large and dominant digital news intermediaries”, such as Instagram or X (formerly known as Twitter), essentially making sure that the journalists and other employees at these news companies are compensated fairly, instead of being bullied into submission by the platforms that host them.

The just thing for these social media platforms to do is to pay the news companies fairly, so that Canadians still have access to what’s happening in the world around them, and so that news companies can survive, at a time when the news industry is on a rapid decline. However, Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, had a different approach. Meta banned news altogether.

Canadians have begun to rely on subscriptions and apps from their favourite news sources, now that they are gone from Instagram. However, a key demographic is missing from this solution.

Young Canadians are not subscribing to these newspapers. No teenager is spending their minimum wage earnings on an online subscription to the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, or The Walrus. Moreover, it is impractical for a teenager to take the time out of a busy school day filled with clubs and extracurriculars to scan the front page of a news website, or browse through an email newsletter. Meta’s response to Bill C-18 has also included a ban on sharing links from news sources to users’ Instagram “stories”, effectively ridding every single channel of communication for young people of reputable news, in a time where misinformation is rampant. Without trusted news sources on Instagram, Canadian youth have been left in the dark.

Under the fundamental freedoms, section 2b of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadians are entitled to “freedom of the press and other media of communication.” If Canadians must follow the law, why can’t Meta?