Facebook is launching a trial news initiative in Canada in which the social-media giant will pay publishers to link to selected articles on their websites.
The company announced the partnership Tuesday with 14 Canadian media outlets. Under the News Innovation Test, Facebook will pay publishers an undisclosed amount to include selected links on their pages that bring users to news sites.
The links will be provided on certain Facebook pages, such as the company’s information hubs, but the partnership does not include links that are shared by the media outlets themselves.
Facebook will compensate media companies and drive traffic to their sites, according to Kevin Chan, the company’s head of public policy for Canada. It’s the first time the News Innovation Test is being introduced anywhere, though Facebook is testing another feature known as Facebook News in other countries.
The announcement comes after much controversy in recent years over the role that Facebook and other social-media companies play in disseminating news by publishers that aren’t financially compensated for their work.
“It’s a turning point. We finally have our voice being heard and being taken into consideration,” said Brian Myles, director of Le Devoir, the French-language newspaper that is one of the partner organizations. “It’s a new relationship based on trust and mutual benefit.”
The participating media outlets are a mix of large established publishers and smaller independent ones in both English and French. The 14 outlets are blogTO, Canada’s National Observer, The Coast, La coopérative nationale de l’information indépendante, Daily Hive, Le Devoir, Discourse Media, FP Newspapers, Narcity, The Narwhal, SaltWire Network, The Sprawl, The Tyee and Village Media.
Emma Gilchrist, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Narwhal, said she is pleased with the partnership. “It basically provides us with unconditional support to produce more journalism,” she said. “It’s a pretty good deal from our perspective.”
Launched in 2018, The Narwhal is a non-profit publication focused on environmental journalism. It is financially supported by memberships.
Ms. Gilchrist said the initiative is also a way for Facebook to promote strong journalism and combat misinformation on their platform, something the social-media company has had issues with in the past.
The initiative will help provide Canadians with relevant news, and is a way for the company to do its part in helping publishers transition to the digital environment, Mr. Chan said.
“We understand our role in the news ecosystem,” he said, adding Facebook hopes to expand the partnership to include more Canadian publishers over time.
Facebook has faced backlash in recent months over its dealings with news publishers. It blocked news feeds in Australia in response to a planned law in that country that required Facebook and Google to pay news publishers they link to on their platforms. Facebook was criticized by publishers and politicians for removing the feeds, and restored them after reaching a deal with the government.
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault in February condemned Facebook’s actions in Australia as “highly irresponsible.” He also promised to introduce legislation this year to make tech giants such as Google and Facebook pay for news content they share on their platforms, but that hasn’t happened yet. Mr. Guilbeault said such legislation is necessary even if publishers make separate arrangements with social-media companies.
Mr. Chan said that the News Innovation Test will put Facebook in a better position to help the news industry in Canada. “We think there’s an opportunity to ground initiatives in voluntary commercial arrangements between private-sector partners,” he added.
The News Innovation Test is part of the Facebook Journalism Project in Canada. That projects supports the Facebook-Canadian Press News Fellowship that creates roles for emerging journalists reporting on underserved communities with The Canadian Press. Facebook committed $8-million in March to support the Facebook Journalism Project, and part of that money will go towards extending this fellowship through to 2024.
Mr. Myles and Ms. Gilchrist confirmed the partnership with Facebook will last three years.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrected stated that Facebook committed $8-million to extend the Facebook-Canadian Press News Fellowship. It in fact is committing a portion of that money to the fellowship.
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