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A car passes Facebook's new Meta logo on a sign at the company headquarters on Oct. 28, 2021, in Menlo Park, Calif.Tony Avelar/The Associated Press

Ottawa has made a fresh overture to Meta in an effort to persuade the tech giant to come back to the negotiating table and unblock news on Facebook and Instagram.

The approach to Meta by officials in the Heritage Department was made this week shortly after it clinched a deal with Google, sources said.

Meta has blocked Canadians’ access to news on its Facebook and Instagram platforms to protest the Online News Act, which would force it to make deals with news organizations for posting or linking to their work. By completely blocking access, Meta is no longer covered by the legislation.

The federal government struck a deal with Google this week that will see the company inject $100-million a year into the news industry. It will pay into a type of fund, run by a collective of news organizations. The agreement heads off Google’s threat to block Canadians’ ability to search for news on the platform.

The Online News Act comes into force on Dec. 19. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will oversee how the act is implemented, taking into account government regulations.

Meta has said the problems it has with the legislation cannot be fixed through regulations.

“Unlike search engines, we do not pro-actively pull news from the internet to place in our users’ feeds and we have long been clear that the only way we can reasonably comply with the Online News Act is by ending news availability for people in Canada,” spokeswoman Lisa Laventure said.

Heritage Minister Pascale St.-Onge has said she was keen to resume talks with Meta months ago, but Meta declined. Her department renewed their overtures to Meta this week.

Three government sources said the department had approached Meta about talks. The Globe is not naming the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Two expressed optimism the Google deal would spur Meta to come back to the negotiating table.

The $100-million-a-year deal with Google is far lower than the government’s original projection of how much the company would have to pay each year, which was $172-million. At that time, the Heritage Department projected that Meta, which has lower global revenue than Google, would have to pay $62-million. That amount would likely now be far lower, in line with Google’s contribution.

Meta’s decision to block news provoked an angry reaction from the Prime Minister as well as provincial premiers, and prompted the suspension of advertising worth millions of dollars.

More than 30 advertisers, including the federal government, the B.C and Quebec governments, Hydro-Québec, Loto-Québec, Bell Media, Quebec-based media organizations Cogeco and Quebecor, as well as the cities of Quebec and Montreal, have suspended ads on Meta platforms.

Last year, Ottawa spent $11.4-million on advertising on Facebook and Instagram. British Columbia’s government spent close to $1.4-million last year on advertising on Meta, with another $138,000 this financial year.

Paul Deegan, president and CEO of News Media Canada, which represents the news industry including The Globe and Mail, urged large retailers, banks and telecom companies to pull ads from Meta while it blocks news.

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