Meta Slammed for 'Stupid, Dangerous' Canada News Ban

Move has made it harder for people to share information about wildfire evacuations
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2023 6:37 AM CDT
With Wildfires Raging, Meta Won't Drop Canada's News Ban
Wildfire smoke fills the air over Yellowknife on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.   (Bill Braden /The Canadian Press via AP)

Meta has banned Canadians from sharing news content on Facebook and Instagram amid an ongoing dispute with the federal government—and experts say that with wildfire evacuations underway, the timing couldn't be worse. Residents of Yellowknife, capital of the Northwest Territories, have been told to get out by noon Friday. With the nearest evacuation center almost 700 miles away, residents say they are frustrated by their inability to share news stories about issues including the safety of the highway system, the BBC reports. Many have resorted to sharing screenshots of information instead of links.

Meta blocked news in Canada earlier this month in response to a law that requires social media to compensate news outlets when their content is shared. Ollie Williams, the editor of Northwest Territories news site Cabin Radio, tells the CBC that the ban is "stupid and dangerous and clearly should not be in place," though he also disagrees with the government's approach to the issue. He says traffic to the website has surged, and while people are talking about how stupid the ban is, they should also note how "heartening it is that there's a wildfire situation and the audience, the people who consume the news, have just put Meta to one side and said 'All right, well, that's useless,' and gone straight to the source."

Meta says it won't be dropping the ban, though it notes that information from government websites and similar sources isn't blocked. The Yellowknife evacuation order affects around 22,000 people, close to half the population of a territory bigger than Texas and California put together. Most residents have left the city in long convoys of vehicles. Around 1,500 left on 15 flights Thursday, with another 22 flights due to depart Friday, the AP reports. "We're all tired of the word unprecedented, yet there is no other way to describe this situation in the Northwest Territories," Premier Caroline Cochrane tweeted. (More Canada stories.)

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