Quebec politicians, media companies vow to stop advertising on Facebook

The province of Quebec and several of its largest cities will no longer advertise on Facebook following Meta’s decision to block Canadians’ access to news on its platforms over a law requiring payments to local news publishers.

“Meta’s refusal to share journalistic content is very concerning,” Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said on Twitter Wednesday. “Access to verified and quality news is essential.”

Quebec City, Gatineau, Laval and Longueuil are doing the same.

Longueuil Mayor Catherine Fournier said on Twitter that all new advertisements from the city on Montreal’s South Shore will be suspended until further notice “in solidarity with our news media which is one of the pillars of a democratic society like ours.”

The mayors made their announcements after Quebec Premier François Legault said the province would stop advertising with Meta until it enters negotiations over how to comply with the Online News Act.

“No business is above the law,” Legault said on Twitter.

The Canadian government has done the same. Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez blasted Meta for choosing not to negotiate with the federal government and instead blocking content for some users as part of a test.

“Facebook has decided to be unreasonable, irresponsible and started blocking news. This is why today, we are announcing the Government of Canada will be suspending advertising on Facebook and Instagram,” Rodriguez said Wednesday.

The Online News Act, or Bill C-18, was passed last month and lays out rules to force companies such as Meta and Google to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers for their content.

Google and Meta previously said they would block access to news articles in Canada if the legislation is passed.

Canada’s media industry has called for tighter regulation of internet giants to allow news businesses to recoup financial losses suffered in the years that Facebook and Google gained a greater share of the online advertising market.

Speaking in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he expects more governments and companies will stop advertising with Meta in the coming days.

“We are not backing down on this. This goes to the core of a free and informed society that is able to make decisions in a democracy,” he said.

Telecom companies join boycott

Quebecor, the telecom giant that also owns many of the province’s media outlets and newspapers, also announced it is pulling ads on Facebook and Instagram.

As has Cogeco, which owns and operates radio stations across Quebec. The daily French-language news service, La Presse+, confirmed by email to Radio-Canada that it would also stop buying advertising on Meta.

CBC/Radio-Canada announced Wednesday that it is also suspending its advertising purchases on Facebook and Instagram.

Rodriguez said the federal government spends about $10 million in advertisements on the platforms, which he said will be reinvested in other ad campaigns.

In a statement, Meta reiterated that C-18 is “flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work.” Google declined to comment on the announced plans to cease advertising.

Google has compared the exposure it provides through its search engine to a free newsstand service for media outlets. Meta has said it sees no room for negotiation with the government, given the way the law was written.