On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chastised Meta for censoring domestic news on its platforms, claiming that the Facebook-owned company was prioritizing business over safety as devastating wildfires forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
Trudeau’s remarks are the latest government assault against Meta, which earlier this month began banning content on its Facebook and Instagram platforms for all Canadian users in response to a new law mandating internet companies to pay for news items.
Meta had long indicated that the Online News Act was unsustainable for its company since it imposes a fee on links shared by users, and the news ban was enforced ahead of the law’s planned implementation by the end of this year.
“Facebook is putting corporate profits ahead of people’s safety,” Trudeau said during a televised press conference in Prince Edward Island, Atlantic Canada, calling the company’s actions “inconceivable.”
Last Monday, federal Liberal cabinet ministers described the prohibition as foolish and irresponsible. Some residents escaping wildfires complained to domestic media that the prohibition prohibited them from sharing vital information about the blaze.
Canada is having its worst wildfire season on record, with blazes ravaging the western provinces of British Columbia (B.C.) and the Northwest Territories (NWT) in the last week.
“It’s time for us to expect more from corporations like Facebook that are making billions of dollars off of Canadians,” Trudeau said in Cornwall, Prince Edward Island.
According to a Meta spokeswoman, Canadians continue to utilize the company’s platforms to engage with their communities and receive information, which includes content from official government departments, emergency services, and non-governmental organizations.
According to the firm, as of Friday, more than 45,000 people had used Facebook’s “Safety Check” function to mark themselves safe, and 300,000 people had visited crisis response pages for Yellowknife, NWT, and Kelowna, B.C. to request assistance.