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Meta's Move To Block News Erodes 'Signals Of Reliability' As Right-Wing Memes Thrive On Canadian Facebook: Report

Ananya Gairola
April 14, 2024

The decision by Meta Platforms Inc. (NASDAQ:META) to block news links in Canada has reportedly led to a surge in right-wing content and could potentially disrupt political discourse.

What Happened: Meta’s move to block news links in Canada, rather than pay media companies for their content, has led to a significant increase in right-wing content on the platform, reported Reuters.

This decision could have far-reaching implications for political discourse, especially in election years.

Jeff Ballingall, a prominent right-wing meme producer in Canada, has seen a substantial increase in traffic to his Canada Proud Facebook page since the news block. “Our numbers are growing and we’re reaching more and more people every day,” he said.

See Also: Elon Musk Reacts To Old Clip Of Steve Jobs, Tesla Seeks Apple’s Aid And Small Browsers Challenge Tech Giants: This Week In Appleverse

Two unpublished studies, shared with the report, have found that the absence of news on the platform has led to a significant shift in how Canadian Facebook users engage with political information. This shift could potentially undermine political discourse, particularly in election years.

“The news being talked about in political groups is being replaced by memes,” said Taylor Owen, founding director of McGill University’s Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy, who worked on one of the studies. “The ambient presence of journalism and true information in our feeds, the signals of reliability that were there, that’s gone.”

Researchers suggest that in elections like 2025, the rise of opinionated and unverified content coupled with a dearth of reliable news on the platform could erode political discourse.

Meta’s decision to block news links has also sparked concerns about the spread of misinformation. A separate study found that engagement with what it categorized as “unreliable” sources increased significantly after the news ban. “This is especially troubling,” said Gordon Crovitz, co-chief executive of NewsGuard, a fact-checking company that scores websites for accuracy.

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Why It Matters: Meta’s decision to block news links in Canada is part of a broader trend of the company scaling back on news and political content. The company discontinued its Facebook News feature in the U.S. and Australia following the closure of the feature in the U.K., France, and Germany last year.

Despite this trend, Facebook remains the most popular social media platform for current affairs content, with 51% of Canadians obtaining news from the platform in 2023. The report noted that in Australia, where two-thirds of the population is on Facebook, 32% used the platform for news last year.

Meanwhile, unlike Facebook, Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google has not signaled any alterations to its agreements with news publishers in Australia. It has also secured an agreement with the Canadian government to provide payments to a fund to bolster support for media outlets.

Check out more of Benzinga’s Consumer Tech coverage by following this link.

Read Next: Wedbush’s Dan Ives Says Apple Has ‘Best Installed Base In The World’ For Its AI Future: WWDC A ‘Key Moment’ For Cupertino

Disclaimer: This content was partially produced with the help of Benzinga Neuro and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

Image Credits – Shutterstock

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