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Facebook is incorrect to argue journalism lacks economic value, says Canada PM Trudeau

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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Blair Gable/File Photo

OTTAWA, May 9 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday said Meta Platforms Inc's (META.O) resistance to proposed legislation that would mandate payment by its Facebook affiliate and other internet firms for journalistic output was based on a false premise that journalism had no economic value.

Speaking before a parliamentary committee over the Trudeau government's legislation on Monday, a Meta executive said news had a social value, but not an economic benefit to the firm.

"If we are being asked to compensate these publishers for material that has no economic value to us, that's where the problem is," Meta's director of public policy in Canada, Rachel Curran, told the committee.

Trudeau on Tuesday said, "that argument that the internet giants are putting forward is not just flawed, it's dangerous to our democracy, to our economy."

Facebook's position against funding news material "shows how deeply irresponsible and out of touch they are," Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

The proposal, bill C-18 or the "Online News Act", seeks laws to require platforms like Facebook and Alphabet's (GOOGL.O) Google to sign commercial arrangements and pay news publishers for their material, a step similar to a ground-breaking measure approved in Australia in 2021.

Both Google and Meta have said they will withhold access to news stories on their platforms in Canada if the measure is voted into law without revisions. Their biggest complaint is paying for links to news stories put on their websites that they argue would be unsustainable for their companies.

Facebook claims links to news items make up less than 3% of the information on its users' feed, and that journalists gain by sharing their work on the social media network.

"Someone reporting on the horrors in Bucha (in Ukraine) is not trying to get likes on their Facebook page," Trudeau remarked.

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