The B.C. government has reversed direction and will now stop most advertising on Facebook and Instagram.
The move follows actions last week by the federal and Quebec governments to suspend advertising with Meta — the Silicon Valley technology conglomerate that also owns Facebook, Instagram, Threads and WhatsApp — after the company followed through on a threat to block Canadian news from its services.
“To send a strong message to Meta that journalism is a vital public service and access to news should never be blocked, our government has decided to stop all advertising on Facebook and Instagram — with a limited exception for critical health and safety information,” Premier David Eby said Wednesday in an emailed statement.
“Local media creates much of the content that tech giants have relied on to build their business models, and many British Columbians now rely on social media to get their news,” he said. “Meta’s decision to cut off that access is totally unacceptable.”
Meta has begun blocking access to Canadian news, including The Tyee, as the dispute over Bill C-18, the Online News Act, escalates. The federal act, which passed June 22, requires companies like Meta and Google to enter deals with Canadian news organizations to pay them for the news content appearing on their platforms.
For now, governments are continuing to advertise with Google, which is in talks with the federal government on implementing the law and says it won’t start blocking news until the law comes into effect in six months.
Last week a spokesperson for B.C.’s Finance Ministry said that while the province was “keenly watching developments,” it planned to continue advertising with Meta and Google as part of a strategy to reach diverse audiences. Active paid campaigns included ones on wildfire information, the BC Demographic Survey and BC Parks programs.
Eby’s statement yesterday said that as the province experiences one of its worst wildfire seasons on record, the government will now only advertise on Meta to provide the public with critical information related to public health and safety emergencies.
“During emergencies, we need to use all effective communications tools at our disposal,” he said.
The B.C. government spent $1.4 million on ads from Meta last year and $1.7 million the year before that.
A Finance Ministry spokesperson said that as the situation evolves the province will review and update its interim advertising policy as needed.