By ROB GILLIES | Associated Press
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday accused Facebook of putting profit over people's safety in the emergencies caused by Canada's record-breaking wildfire season.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced earlier this summer that it was making good on its promise to block news content from Canada on its platforms, as a new law requires tech giants to stop publishers from linking or otherwise reusing their content online to pay.
Fires raging in Canada have displaced tens of thousands of people from their homes and threatened cities like Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. About 30,000 people were under evacuation orders in British Columbia.
“Right now, in an emergency situation where up-to-date local information is more important than ever, Facebook is putting corporate profits ahead of people's safety,” Trudeau said at a news conference in Cornwall, on Prince Edward Island.
“It is so unimaginable that a company like Facebook would choose to put corporate profits ahead of ensuring local news organizations can bring Canadians up-to-date information,” the Prime Minister said.
Government ministers on Friday called on Meta to lift Canada's news ban, which applies to both local broadcasters and national media such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The Northern California-headquartered company stood by its decision, saying in a statement about the wildfires that people in Canada can continue to use Instagram and Facebook “to connect with their communities and access reputable information, including content from official sources.” Government agencies.” , emergency services and non-governmental organizations.”
Residents and visitors to the country will not be able to view or share news on Meta's proprietary social networks, including news articles, video and audio content posted by media outlets inside or outside of Canada.
Meta was not alone in his action. Google owner Alphabet also said it planned to remove links to Canadian news in response to the new law, although this has not yet been done. The online news law, which was passed at the end of June after a long debate, is to come into force before the end of this year.
“That's Facebook's decision,” Trudeau said. “In a democracy, quality local journalism matters, and it matters now more than ever when people are worried about their homes, worried about their communities, and worried about the worst summer of extreme events we've seen in a long time . ”
British Columbia Prime Minister David Eby said it was unacceptable that Meta did not reverse its decision to block the dissemination of Canadian news online.
“I find it amazing that we're at this stage of the crisis and the owners of Facebook and Instagram haven't come forward and said, ‘We're trying to be clear with the federal government, but it's more important that people are safe . ‘” Eby said.
He added that many people in British Columbia depend on Facebook-shared media for information about the wildfires.
Meta has taken similar steps in the past. In 2021, the company briefly blocked news from its platform in Australia after the country passed legislation that would force tech companies to pay publishers to use their news. It later signed deals with Australian publishers.
Associated Press writer Jim Morris of Vancouver, British Columbia contributed to this report.