The Online News Act vs. Student Journalism
After passing Bill C-18, the Online News Act, journalism organizations have lost access to major platforms for promoting news content and generating advertising revenue.

Where do you get your news? As of August, the answer is no longer Facebook, Instagram, or X (formerly Twitter), due to the passing of Bill C-18, the Online News Act, which received royal assent on June 22, 2023. The act will fully take effect before December 19, 2023, which is 180 days later.

The bill aims to level the playing field in advertising earnings between Canadian news outlets and digital news intermediaries such as Meta, the parent company of Instagram, and Facebook. It also aims to protect news businesses such as “independent local news businesses,” “Indigenous news outlets,” “official language minority community news outlets,” and news businesses with “innovative business models.” To this end, it requires digital news intermediaries to compensate news outlets for displaying links to the latter’s news content.

The Government of Canada indicates that, in 2022, digital platforms received up to 80 per cent of advertising revenue displayed on news content, shrinking the already devastated journalism sector. As of September 3, 2023, news content profiles such as CTV, CBC, CNN, and our own, The Medium, are unable to display posts, with pages currently displaying following message instead: “In response to Canadian government legislation, news content can’t be viewed in Canada.”

In a press release, Meta countered the Canadian government’s criticism of their shares in advertising, responding, “Our free tools and services created pathways for local publishers to connect with their communities and for established media outlets to continue to grow their audiences… which generated more than [C] $230 million in estimated value in a twelve month period.”

The effects of Bill C-18’s passing and the subsequent removal of news content from social media platforms will have far-reaching impacts on journalism industries. News content is built into social media posts to make current events readily accessible and digestible, especially to younger age groups—who are unlikely to seek out the news via traditional streams such as newspapers and news broadcasts. 

Like other news platforms, student journalism organizations rely on social media to promote content and drive audiences to their own websites. In the absence of social media news, student journalists are left to rely on their readership to be intentional about their news consumption.

Traditional news media, such as newspapers that deliver straight into a reader’s mailbox or email inbox, are less reliant on a third party for promotion, reader engagement, or advertising revenue. Student journalism ventures, such as The Medium, are funded by incidental fees paid regularly by the student body. The Underground, the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus’ student newspaper, also operates with incidental funding, as does The Varsity, U of T’s tri-campus newspaper. 

Beyond wiping news content from the feeds of student journalist organizations, Meta has also disabled the sharing of news content links by their users. For now, student journalists may turn to other social media channels that the Act has not affected, such as TikTok and YouTube, where news content is still readily available.

In a news release on June 29, 2023, Google deemed the Online News Act “unworkable,” and stated their intent to remove links to news content when the act takes effect. The company also estimates that their user traffic to Canadian news sites contributed around C$250 million in revenue for the journalism sector. If Google pulls news content from their platforms, news links will no longer appear in the “Search” or “News” tab. In the same news release, Google’s President of Global Affairs, Kent Walker, said: “We remain concerned that Bill C-18 will make it harder for Canadians to find news online, make it harder for journalists to reach their audiences, and reduce valuable free web traffic to Canadian publishers.”

Staff Writer (Volume 50) — Meighan is a published author and Strategic Communications professional. She recently completed her bachelor's in Professional Writing and Communications & French Studies at UTM. Her short fiction, "Birthday Cake," appears in ICCIT's Vision Journal. Meighan specializes in Arts & Entertainment and News writing, with a particular interest in Food & Travel Writing. In her spare time, she can be found dining at Toronto's newest restaurants and planning European adventures.


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