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Facebook Canada exec tells MPs company he may cut off news sites

Facebook’s Canadian head of public policy has defended the company’s decision to cut off news and public health agencies in Australia - and he doesn't rule out taking a similar measure here.

Although Facebook Canada told MPs the company would only cut off news sites if there was 'really no choice,' the country passed new legislation requiring web giants like Facebook and Google to compensate publishers for those links.

Kevin Chan, Facebook’s head of public policy in Canada, said the following:

“Unfortunately, the proposed legislation did not acknowledge basic facts about the internet, did not recognize the value that platforms provide to news publishers, stood to benefit only large media conglomerates and not independent media outlets,” he told MPs at the House of Commons Heritage Committee.

The Australian ban lasted for only a few days before the company reached an agreement with the government.

Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin has questioned the company’s tactics. “Do you think it’s an appropriate negotiation strategy with a government to cut access to the news, including public health news, during what is a pandemic?” she asked.

Chan hasn't ruled out similar measures if Canada adopts similar laws.

“It is never going to be something that we would ever want to do, unless we really have no choice,” he said.

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh said the timing of the announcement felt off to him.

“I’m a little cynical about it, you knew you’re coming to this committee on Monday, and then all of a sudden you’re bringing out another $8 million to support your news fellowship,” he said. “It fundamentally breaks the premise of how a free and open internet works.”

At the ethics committee hearing, members grilled Chan on several questions that he was unable to answer including how much tax the company pays in Canada, what its revenues are and what profit it makes on those revenues. He also declined to say whether the company had any Francophone moderators in Quebec to look for hate speech and other disturbing content.

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