Internet Fragmentation > Canada’s Online News Act

Who Loses When Platforms Don’t Show News to Canadian Users?

Region: North America
Threat type: Regulating Business Relationships
Last updated: 1 December 2023

A law in Canada means people cannot access news on some major online platforms. It is making people less connected, and less safe.

The Online News Act was passed by the Government of Canada in 2023. It forces large Internet platforms to form contracts to compensate media organizations if they make that content available through links on their platforms. Compliance with the law will be overseen centrally, by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The stated aim is to help the Canadian news media adapt financially in a changing digital landscape, but the effect has been that people in Canada have far fewer ways to discover news, and even urgent and time-sensitive information.

For example, 2023 was the worst forest fire season on record. There were several communities in the Northwest Territories who needed to evacuate, but the people there had no access to news on their most-used social media platform–Facebook. This meant that they had to rely on word of mouth and other less-accessible means to get official updates to know whether it was safe to leave, or to find out when flights were leaving that would be able to escort them to shelter. People were stuck in a danger zone, and some had to assume they were stranded, even though there was a way out—they just had no way to find out about it.

Because there was so little access to news, family members outside the area did not have an easy way to follow the situation, so they could stay informed with reliable information about the safety of their loved ones. It also meant that there was no way to quickly counteract misinformation or rumors, making it all even more difficult for many people.

This is just one example of what reducing access to news can do in a crisis situation, but the impact is far greater. Services that aren’t even classified as ‘digital news intermediaries’ are affected. For example, it could make it harder for Canadian contributors to Wikipedia to do research and fact-checking, since this law hinders their ability to discover credible news content online in Canada. People in other countries have easier access to news.

This law also poses a fragmentation threat because it centralizes management and restricts the use of links—a basic Internet function—by a centralized authority (CRTC) in Canada. This prevents people and businesses from contributing to the digital economy, and has a chilling effect on Internet freedom for users in Canada.


The Online News Act was formally passed into law in June 2023. After this, Meta stopped news sharing services on Facebook and Instagram for people in Canada. In early 2023, Google conducted news filtering tests, and announced that it, too, would stop news services if the bill became law. However, Google has since reached an agreement with the Canadian government on a $100 million yearly contribution to exempt itself from the Online News Act. As of November 2023, the government and CRTC were still carrying out consultations on regulation, to determine how the act will be implemented other for covered services.

Our Position

The Internet Society developed an Internet Impact Brief. This is a form of Internet fragmentation that has a very tangible impact on every Internet user in Canada. It fundamentally changes the relationship between people and the Internet, making CRTC a centralized authority to oversee how people and businesses can use the Internet’s common language and address system. It significantly harms what the Internet needs to exist and thrive, restricting how people and businesses can research, discover, communicate, and innovate on the Internet in Canada.

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Talking Points

  • The Government of Canada has splintered people in Canada away from an open, global, secure, and trustworthy Internet by restricting how basic functions like links are shared and how content is accessed online.
  • The Online News Act has restricted innovation and growth of the digital economy by forcing users and businesses in Canada into a permission-based model that controls use of the Internet’s common language and address system, which runs counter to its fundamental design.
  • Rather than tilt the balance away from the large platforms, it has had the effect of reinforcing their market power. The act has requirements that make it harder for small businesses and startups to use Internet technologies to become challengers in the market—there’s too great a financial risk if they end up forced into compensation with news companies. This has created barriers to entry and growth for Canadian businesses.
  • Freedom of expression is stifled by restricting people in Canada from easily accessing and sharing information online. Even in a crisis, it’s already been shown that the act makes it impossible to quickly spread important news that would help keep people safer.