Imagine this: you open Instagram on your phone, navigate to the search bar, and type in your favourite news account. You hope to see updates on what’s happening in your local community or even worldwide. Though instead of an array of news items lining your phone screen, you see a simple message stating that the content you want to view is unavailable to users in Canada.
This sudden blocking of Instagram content is what happened to the Link magazine account. Trying to access the page on the app will yield a short response, “People in Canada can’t see this content.”
“I was looking around on my Instagram and checked out Link’s page,” said one anonymous BCIT student. “I thought my phone was broken, or something or the internet wasn’t working, but it was just Instagram blocking [Link content]. I was confused because it was such a random thing to block.”
“I wasn’t even notified that this content would no longer be displayed,” shared Gabriella, another student who relies on social media for news. “I didn’t even know until you told me. To [block] school news, that’s weird.”
According to Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, this change was a response to the Online News Act. The act originated to compensate news businesses when users share their content on other platforms and services, including social media. Essentially, news businesses in Canada would have to be paid or negotiate payment with social media platforms.
Because of this new government mandate, users cannot share or view news links in Instagram posts or stories. Meta identifies news outlets as “organizations whose primary purpose is to produce news content, in any format (including an audio or audiovisual format), that reports on, investigates, or explains current issues or events of public interest.” Evidently, this includes Link.
“It would impact students,” said Gabriella. “I feel like it shouldn’t because it’s more for the students than the public. It’s run by the students, and it’s independent, so I feel like there isn’t an expectation to be paid from Instagram. I feel like [These changes are] for profit.”
The anonymous student shared this sentiment. “I like seeing what happens at school and what people are doing,” they said. “I think blocking [Link] is a little bit beyond blocking news.”
This change has affected more than just Link. From small news outlets to larger, more prominent outlets like CTV News, Global News, and Bloomberg, news accounts have become inaccessible to those in Canada, the country where these outlets mainly operate and report. While many of these companies have their own websites and platforms to share news on, the social media changes are very impactful, as many people mainly turn to social media for news.
“I remember seeing people on Instagram stories reposting news stuff, like the war in Ukraine,” said the anonymous student when talking about their experience with news on the platform. “If there’s no more news on Instagram, people won’t share news with each other, and I think we’ll be less aware.”
“I’m sure this hurts journalists and news sources more than it helps them,” the student added, “because I feel like social media is where people get their news from now, not TV or news sites. At least, that’s what it’s like with people our age.”
Experts explained that the change especially affects local news outlets and smaller independent outlets, as they rely on social media for visibility and traffic. Additionally, removing these news sources from easily accessible platforms will hide reliable sources from the public and raise the spread of unsourced misinformation.
While content on other social media platforms continues to be a source of news, this might change in the future. We may see other social media platforms follow, as they would be subject to the same laws. Even Google has plans to remove Canadian news from searches, which will be heavily detrimental to the spread of local news in the country.
“I’m scared that they’re going to block news from other [social media platforms],” said the anonymous student. “I use Twitter and Reddit a lot, and find lots of cool and also important news there, so I’m hoping that can at least stay.”
As of now, we will have to deal with the blocking of news on Instagram and Facebook, relying on other methods to obtain our information. It is important to keep up with the things happening around us, whether that be at BCIT or elsewhere. Just how much Canadian news will disappear from the digital world remains to be seen, so be sure to enjoy our treasure trove of accessible information while you still can.