In early August, college radio stations and student newspapers across Canada started noticing something odd. Station managers and editors saw big dips in visits to their websites, particularly by way of Facebook and Instagram. Rowan Grice, a 28-year-old station manager at the University of Victoria’s CFUV station, says he received a handful of puzzling messages from listeners saying they couldn’t access the station’s Facebook and Instagram pages at all. That handful grew larger every few days, confounding both Grice and his listeners. In mid-August, he suddenly understood what had happened. CFUV, like many other student publications in Canada, had become collateral damage in Meta’s war against the Canadian government and the country’s news publishers.
“It’s like we suddenly don’t exist on Facebook or Instagram,” Grice said in an interview with Gizmodo. The station manager told Gizmodo he received an alert from Meta saying the station had been identified as a news provider according to the criteria of recently passed legislation. For the station’s six thousand Facebook followers, CFUV essentially ceased to exist.
Meta’s news blackout isn’t just affecting large, professionalized news organizations, though. It’s having an outsized effect on small publishers. Gizmodo spoke to half a dozen student journalists and station managers who say the ban on news links, intended to hurt big-name publishers, has instead hamstrung their vital ability to fundraise, recruit volunteers, or engage in community outreach. One dejected student journalist said Meta’s overpowering assault on the news has made her abandon her dreams of being a reporter entirely. And the Online News Act, intended to boost Canada’s local news, seems instead to have increased the hardships of the nation’s most local outlets.