News Editor's Blog·EDITOR'S NOTE

Canadian news is starting to vanish from Instagram. Google is next. Here's how to find CBC as that happens

Some readers are getting a preview of what social media and search engines will look like without Canadian news as tech companies make good on threats to eliminate it from platforms following federal legislation. We’re providing a list of other sources of CBC News to help you find our journalism and make it as easily accessible as possible

Meta makes good on threats to eliminate some news from platforms in Canada; Google says it will soon follow

A close-up image of a mobile phone shows several social media apps including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram.
As Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, and Google threaten to eliminate some news from platforms in Canada following the introduction of federal legislation, some readers are getting a preview of what social media and search engines will look like without Canadian news. (Shutterstock/Primakov)

We use this editor's blog to explain our journalism and what's happening at CBC News. You can find more blogs here.


On Monday, I got a personal preview of what a future without Canadian news on social media and search engines looks like. 

I had pulled up the CBC News Instagram account on my phone. With more than 662,000 followers, our main news account offers a daily assortment of posts, video journalism, explainers and robust conversation in the comments. It reaches a younger audience that is important to us and, based on the activity we see there, just as interested in independent, fact-based journalism as any other age group we serve.  

As I opened the Instagram app, I caught a momentary glimpse of recent stories we had published to the social media platform, which is owned by Meta, the company also behind Facebook. The top posts included a video documenting how a group of high school students had built a wheelchair-friendly lawn mower and donated it to a man in Windsor, Ont., and a story post on the largest-ever high school graduating class at the only school in Pikangikum First Nation. Each had thousands of likes. 

And then it all disappeared.

The screen flashed white. 

Gone were more than 6,700 posts from over several years, thousands of likes, comments and thumbnails, replaced with a message that reads, "People in Canada can't see this content. In response to Canadian government legislation, news content can't be viewed in Canada." 

A screengrab from a cellphone of the Instagram App shows a white screen with a camera icon that has a line through it and the message: 'People in Canada can’t see this content. In response to Canadian government legislation, news content can’t be viewed in Canada.'
A screengrab from the Instagram app displays a message explaining that people in Canada cannot see news content in response to the federal government's legislation. (Brodie Fenlon/CBC )

A "learn more" link took me to a page that explained, "You can no longer see content from any news outlet accounts, even if you previously followed them or search for them. You can no longer share or view news links on Instagram via stories or Profile Bio links, including news links from any news outlet accounts."

This Instagram lockout of CBC News content on Monday wasn't universal, but we did hear from other people who had the same experience as I did and were wondering what was happening. I suspect I'm among the up to five per cent of Canadian users Meta has indicated will be barred from accessing news content in ongoing tests that began last month. 

A glimpse of what's to come  

It's a glimpse of what we can expect in the future if Facebook's parent company and Google make good on threats to eliminate Canadian news from their platforms in retaliation for Bill C-18, the federal Online News Act that will force these platforms to strike financial agreements with news media outlets for "fair compensation" — still undefined — when news content appears there.

In Google's case, the California-based company says it will eliminate news links for Canadians from its search, news and discover products when the law comes into effect, expected in December. As the world's largest search engine, the elimination of Canadian news from Google would have a significant impact on users and news publishers alike. 

The Instagram lockout I experienced this week suggests Meta may block everything produced by Canadian news organizations and posted on their platforms — not just news links, but original content made specifically for Instagram, such as photos and video.

So why is this happening?

Critics, including Meta and Google, say Bill C-18 is unfair, unworkable and amounts to a tax on links, with no recognition of the traffic or "free marketing" the tech companies provide to news publishers. 

The Canadian government and supporting news organizations insist the legislation will ensure fair compensation from "tech giants" that they say built social media audiences on the backs of their content, then siphoned away the majority of digital ad revenue they count on to do journalism.

(For the record, CBC/Radio-Canada's corporate position is that the Online News Act will help level the playing field and contribute to a healthy news ecosystem in Canada "at a time when 80 per cent of digital ad revenue goes to Facebook and Google," said spokesperson Leon Mar.)

Some industry watchers see the tech companies making an aggressive stand in Canada as an international shot across the bow — a warning to other jurisdictions that are considering similar initiatives, following a previous standoff with Australia's government.  

This is very much an active story CBC News is covering — even as the public broadcaster is among the players affected by the new law and any industry response to it. Our journalists will continue to cover the story as we do any other that has direct implications for CBC/Radio-Canada: with accuracy, balance, fairness and impartiality. 

How to find CBC News coverage

Nonetheless, we know large numbers of Canadians rely on Google and Meta to discover our news coverage. If those sources suddenly cut off access to our news, as Meta did for some Instagram users this week, then we want to ensure Canadians know where to go to find our journalism elsewhere. 

Here's a list of other sources of CBC News, followed by a local news directory maintained by CBC/Radio-Canada, which allows you to search for other news providers in your community.

You can also search CBC/Radio-Canada's local news directory for private news outlets in your community. Find names and direct links here.

Wide access to independent fact-based journalism is a pillar of any healthy democracy and we aim to be anywhere people are looking for news. 

If third-party platforms independently decide to get out of the news business, for whatever reason, rest assured we will help you find our journalism and make it as easily accessible to you as possible. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brodie Fenlon

Editor in chief

Brodie Fenlon is editor in chief and executive director of programs and standards for CBC News.

now