Boy, that blog title is a mouthful; hopefully, you haven't already fallen asleep while reading it. But, here in Canada, some major changes are afoot that impact the dissemination of news to Canadians online.
We call ourselves “The True North Strong and Free” but when it comes to sharing news links in Canada on Instagram, Facebook, and Google, the “free” part has caused some issues.
Major Boooooo: Canada’s New Online News Act is a Bummer
This year, the Canadian Government introduced the Online News Act (Bill C-18), a new legislation that requires major online platforms to compensate news outlets when users share links to their content. However, platforms like Google and Meta (formerly Facebook) have chosen to block news content for Canadians rather than comply with the compensation requirement.
This decision is a result of the bill's design, which provides platforms an easy way out by banning news sharing. This ban will lead to a loss of revenue for news organizations and reduced organic traffic, particularly impacting small and independent journalism groups.
While the Online News Act was introduced as a solution to the challenges faced by the news industry, its implementation is enticing platforms to block Canadian news sharing, hampering access to content on platforms like Meta.
The bill's broad classification of news organizations also raises concerns about misinformation, as even inaccurate sources could become classified content. Additionally, linking news revenue to viral social media shares may incentivize clickbait content over substantial journalism. The secret terms of the mandated deals between platforms and news organizations pose further issues, potentially compromising critical reporting.
To continue accessing news, individuals are encouraged to explore alternate platforms, use VPNs to maintain access to Canadian news (more on that later), visit news websites directly, and rely on international news coverage.
Check out OpenMedia’s detailed overview here for a solid breakdown of the Online News Act and the issues it poses to free and open media access in Canada. You can also check out Google’s statement here and Meta’s statement here.
TLDR: The Canadian Government wants companies like Google and Meta to pay news outlets for their content. Google and Meta have refused. The new law will come into effect at the end of 2023, and that’s when Google plans to start blocking Canadian news links across their products and platforms. Meta has taken a more retaliatory stance and has already started blocking news links and content on their platforms, Facebook and Instagram.
How to Bypass News Blocks on Instagram
If you live in Canada and are an active Instagram user, you have likely already noticed some major news sources, like CBC, CTV, and the New York Times disappearing from your feed. If you click through to the actual Instagram account, you will be hit with “People in Canada can’t see this content” :( :( :(
Major frown face.
But fear not! At the time of publishing this post, it’s pretty darn easy to bypass the Instagram block. All you need is a VPN - and boy, do I have a recommendation for you!
With Windscribe, you can simply connect to a non-Canadian location, and boom, access granted! Take a look!
(Note: You may need to relaunch Instagram once connecting to Windscribe to access blocked content)
Windscribe is available for Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and even Linux - we also have a browser extension. Simply install your preferred app, connect to a non-Canadian location, and ACCESS GRANTED! If you are looking for step-by-step instructions on how to set up the Windscribe app on your specific device, take a look here:
How to Bypass News Blocks on Facebook
Full disclosure: I spent 2 years working in Windscribe Support Land and I loved every second of it. Give me a problem, yo, I’ll solve it… the tougher, the better. I WOULD NOT REST UNTIL THE TROUBLE HAD BEEN TROUBLESHOOTED AND KILLED DEAD (or I had escalated the issue to someone smarter than me).
But I’m here to tell you that I’m stumped by Facebook right now. I have come at this from every angle I can think of and Facebook still knows I am in Canada. Is it because I’m currently in 50-100 local “Buy and Sell” groups? Is it because I checked into my dentist 4 years ago to get a $15 Starbucks gift card?
In addition to connecting to a US location in Windscribe on mobile, desktop, AND the extension, I have so far tried the following to get Facebook to update my Primary Location:
- Changed my current location in my Facebook profile to a US city
- Deleted all past Facebook sessions logged from a Canadian IP
- Updated my Facebook Marketplace location/radius to a US city
- Cleared mobile app cache/data, switched to airplane mode, and re-installed the Facebook app
- Ensured location services were completely disabled on browser and mobile
- Tried turning ON location services with GPS spoofing enabled in the Windscribe Android app
- Prayed, hoped, wished upon a star
But Facebook knows. They know. While Facebook is only logging sessions with US-location IPs, when I check out the Your Information section when logged into my account (https://www.facebook.com/your_information), Facebook still knows exactly where I am…
So of course, I’m still hit with the old “People in Canada can’t see this content” message when I try to access CNN, The New York Times, CBC, etc:
And yes, I’ve read the other tutorials (“just use a VPN, it’s easy”), I’ve scrolled through the message boards (“you get your news on Facebook, are you DUMB???”), and so far I’m stumped. And I would love to keep working on this, but apparently I "can't spend 100 hours troubleshooting" and "need to do [my] actual job".
That’s where you come in! I would like to make a deal. With the use of a VPN, can you figure out how to get Facebook to change your “PRIMARY LOCATION” as shown here when you are logged in: https://www.facebook.com/your_information?
If you can solve this great mystery, we will hook you up with a 1 Year Pro Windscribe Subscription (access to all locations, unlimited data, valued at USD $69.) Hint: It may involve “checking in” to your new location to trick Facebook, or so I’ve heard.
Here's what we need from you:
1. Think you’ve solved it?
Provide step-by-step instructions on how to use a VPN to bypass the Facebook block by updating your primary location on Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/your_information). If you want, you can include screenshots or video, but please remember to blur out any personal or identifying information.
2. How to submit your findings:
Twitter: Tweet at us (@windscribecom) with your findings using the hashtag #CleverWindscribe
Discord: If you are a Discord user and prefer to submit your entry there, join our server at discord.gg/VPN and submit your entry in the #facebook-location channel.
3. YOU WIN
On our end, we will test submissions in the order we receive them. If it works, HUZZAH, you get 1 x Year Pro Windscribe. And by "works", I (Rebecca) must be able to follow your steps and successfully change MY location on Facebook and access blocked news content because apparently, my account is the gold standard of impossible to change...
NOTE: This is a one-and-done, so the first successful submission wins.
So What’s Next:
Well, when the Online News Act officially comes into effect at the end of the year, we can expect that Google, X (formerly Twitter), Reddit, and other platforms will follow Meta’s lead in blocking news access for Canadians. When that time comes, we will do our best to provide instructions on how you can use Windscribe to bypass the blocks.
In the meantime, consider emailing the new Heritage Minister, Pascale St-Onge, who has a chance to amend the current Bill. OpenMedia has made it easy peasy: https://action.openmedia.org/page/132859/petition/
I don’t want to be a downer, but it’s feeling a little bleak if you depend on Meta, Google, and other social platforms to get your news links in Canada. So if you don’t already have Windscribe, now’s definitely the time - get started today for as little as USD 3 per month!