Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez responds to a question during question period, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Ottawa. Rodriguez accused Facebook on Thursday of trying to intimidate Canadians with threats of pulling news content from its platform, following the adoption of Bill C-18 in the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Facebook intimidating Canadians with threats to pull news from platform: Ottawa

Federal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez accused Meta on Thursday of trying to intimidate Canadians with threats of pulling news content from its Facebook platform, following the adoption of Bill C-18 in the House of Commons.

“Canadians don’t like being intimidated,” Rodriguez told reporters in Ottawa. “Me, if I were Facebook, I would change my strategy. It won’t pass with Canadians.”

The minister was reacting to a statement on Wednesday from Facebook’s parent company, Meta, saying the bill “forces us to consider removing news from Facebook in Canada rather than being compelled to submit to government-mandated negotiations that do not properly account for the value we provide publishers.”

Bill C-18, which now moves on to the Senate, aims to force digital platforms — primarily Google and Facebook — to enter into compensation agreements with news companies whose journalistic content they share.

“C-18, ultimately, is to guarantee a press that is free, independent, strong,” Rodriguez said. “That’s the goal of C-18. News has value … And the web giants must recognize that.”

In early October, Rodriguez accused Google and YouTube of behaving like bullies by publishing a blog post criticizing Bill C-11, which aims to regulate streaming platforms.

And last week, he showed impatience with the time taken by the Senate to conclude its study of Bill C-11, as a Senate committee adopted major amendments to the legislation. The NDP and Bloc Québécois had also criticized the Senate’s deliberations on the bill.

Many Conservatives, however, as well as content creators, have repeatedly stated that they fear Bill C-11 will limit what users of streaming platforms can share online.

Rodriguez said he didn’t think Bill C-18 will face the same delays in the Senate. “I hope not, but I think not. And the good news is that C-11 has passed the report stage in the Senate and should ideally return to the House at the start of the year.”

The House of Commons adjourned for the holiday break on Wednesday and is expected to resume on Monday, Jan. 30.

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