Canada's Trudeau condemns Meta for news blackout while wildfires rage

Canada's Trudeau condemns Meta for news blackout while wildfires rage

'Facebook puts corporate profits ahead of people's safety,' says prime minister

By Barry Ellsworth

TRENTON, Canada (AA) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lambasted Meta on Monday for blocking Canadians from local news as wildfires continue to force tens of thousands of Canadians from their homes.

"Right now, in an emergency situation, where up-to-date local information is more important than ever, Facebook is putting corporate profits ahead of people's safety, ahead of quality local journalism," Trudeau said in Prince Edward Island, where he and his cabinet ministers are on a retreat. "This is not the time for that."

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, blocked Canadian news beginning this month to protest a new law that requires it and other internet companies to pay news outlets for using their content.

Residents forced to flee wildfires have complained they cannot access local news on Facebook.

Wildfires have scorched all 10 provinces and three territories in Canada. Currently, Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, is a ghost town as wildfires forced its 19,000 residents to evacuate the city on Friday.

In British Columbia on the weekend, 30,000 residents were evacuated from the Kelowna area due to wildfire threat and another 36,000 were told to pack and be ready to leave the area on a moment’s notice.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale on Saturday blasted Meta’s news blackout as "reckless" considering the dire situation and on Monday, Trudeau reiterated the charge.

"It is so inconceivable that a company like Facebook is choosing to put corporate profits ahead of ensuring that local news organizations can get up-to-date information to Canadians," the prime minister said. "And it matters now more than ever before, when people are worried about their homes, worried about communities, worried about the worst summer for extreme weather events we've had in a long, long time."

Meta rejected the criticism, saying it has activated the "Safety Check" feature that allows users to report that they are safe in the event of a natural disaster.

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