Students react to lack of news on Facebook, Instagram

Still showing the locked Instagram's profile for local student newspaper The Aquinian, after the setting of Bill C18. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

After the federal government passed the Online News Act, or Bill-C18, Meta decided to pull Canadian news from Facebook and Instagram. Students are now feeling the effects of this decision. 

Bill C-18 is a new law enacted in June to give a fair economic balance between news stations in Canada. Social media companies must pay news organizations to share links containing their stories on their platforms, which caused Meta to ban the sharing of Canadian news on their social media platforms.

“I understand what it is trying to do, but honestly it brings more harm than good,” said first-year St. Thomas University student Alex Ryan. “We deserve the right to know what’s going on in the world, and currently, our cell phones are the best tools to get national news.”

Related: Bill C-18: University Publications caught in the ‘crossfire’

Ryan is one of many students who used Instagram to view the news. Without Instagram, Ryan said he would not have known about the recent counter-protests related to New Brunswick’s Policy 713.

[Instagram was] often how I found out about what was going on,” he said. “I didn’t always check the specific news sites, I would just go on people’s stories and they would post a news article and I would look into it and learn more about it.”

According to Statistics Canada, 80 per cent of Canadians who follow news use the internet to stay in-the-know. Furthermore, the internet is the most popular tool to consume news amongst Canadians aged 15 to 24, with 95 per cent of that demographic preferring the internet over other methods. 

First-year student Anna Houston said after Meta banned Canadian news, her preferred radio station could not air its daily Facebook poll results because their page was blocked from the platform. 

“It’s not just about the news. It’s quite literally everything that they want to post,” said Houston. “So even if they want to post about community events, they can’t.”

For some students, the change is not all negative. First-year student Rebecca Gee says the change helped with her mental health.

“Sometimes it can be so overwhelming to have all this national news thrown in your face just by opening Instagram,” said Gee. “For me, not having to see all of that 24/7 has helped with my mental health and kept me in a more positive mood.”

However, she cites being unable to view and support local news as a negative effect of Meta’s decision.

“When I found out I couldn’t read the Aquinian on Instagram, I was really sad I couldn’t support the school newspaper,” she said.