B.C. premier again slams Meta over news blackout during wildfire crisis

Click to play video: 'Premier Eby on Meta ban during B.C. wildfire season'
Premier Eby on Meta ban during B.C. wildfire season
B.C. Premier David Eby called out one of the world's biggest social media companies, saying he's seen first-hand how Mark Zuckerberg' Meta put profits over public safety during the B.C. wildfire season. – Jan 26, 2024

British Columbia’s premier levelled more criticism against one of the world’s biggest social media companies on Friday.

At a press conference announcing new measures to keep kids safe on social media, David Eby called out Meta, alleging the company puts profit over public safety.

Eby pointed to Meta’s block on Canadian news, which he said the company refused to lift during the province’s devastating August 2023 wildfires.

Click to play video: 'B.C. premier calls out Meta for Canadian media blackout during state of emergency'
B.C. premier calls out Meta for Canadian media blackout during state of emergency

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, implemented the blackout this past summer in response to the federal government’s Online News Act. The legislation requires companies like Meta and Google to negotiate agreements to pay Canadian news outlets for their content. In November 2023, Ottawa reached a deal with Google that will see the company provide $100 million annually to Canadian news organizations.

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Eby said Friday that during the summer, while the province was under a state of emergency, he approached Meta asking for the blackout to be suspended.

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“We said please lift the ban on local news for the state of emergency to help save lives, help keep communities safe so people have reliable information, and the answer we got back was, ‘We’ll send a lobbyist over to meet with you,'” Eby alleged.

Eby said he told Meta he would only meet with its representative if the company agreed to lift its moratorium on local news in emergency-affected areas, but the company said no.

“It was more important to them to make a point with the federal government than it was to ensure reliable local news information was available for communities that were threatened by wildfire,” Eby said.

Click to play video: 'Ottawa reaches online news deal with Google'
Ottawa reaches online news deal with Google

Global News is seeking comment from Meta in response to the premier’s comments.

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The premier raised similar criticisms against the company in August, during a surge of fire activity in the Central Okanagan and Shuswap that forced tens of thousands to flee and destroyed hundreds of homes.

At the time, Meta responded with a statement saying it maintained its position that “the broad scope of the Online News Act would impact the sharing of news content on our platforms,” and that it continued to allow Canadians to mark themselves “safe” and visit crisis response pages on Facebook.

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