City of Hamilton looks set to cease Facebook and Instagram ads from municipal accounts

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Council wants to show support for federal Liberal government’s Online News Act. Photo credit: Pexels/Pixabay


In a move meant to show support for the federal Liberal government’s Bill C-18 Online News Act, Hamilton city councillors look set to direct staff to cease all Facebook and Instagram ads from municipal accounts.

A motion brought forward by Ward 8 (West/Central Mountain) Councillor John-Paul Danko was discussed and passed at the October 4 General Issues Committee in a 10-4 vote.

The motion was seconded by Ward 5 (Hamilton East-Stoney Creek) Councillor Matt Francis who previously worked on the 2021 election campaign for federal Liberal candidate (now MP) Chad Collins.

The Online News Act, brought forward by the Trudeau Liberals, became law earlier in 2023.

The bill requires Meta and Google to either compensate news organizations for their content or block news links.

Not wanting to be forced to pay news organizations, Meta has followed the language of the legislation and opted to block news links from being viewed in Canada.

Google is also expected to block news links in Canada later this year.

Those supporting the Liberal government’s view on the matter believe that social media companies profit off of the sharing of news content and have, in effect, diverted advertising dollars from news agencies to large tech companies.

On the other side of the debate, tech companies argue that they should not have to compensate news organizations for content that those organizations freely share on their platforms.

Additionally, the argument has been made that social media sites actually help news organizations make money by allowing for the vast dissemination of their content.

Nevertheless, Danko told the General Issues Committee that he feels the city should take a stance in support of the federal Liberal government’s legislation and “immediately suspend” any “new, non-critical advertising campaigns by Public Information and Media Relations on all Meta-owned platforms.”

Meta’s social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, and Threads.

The motion calls for the ban to last for a maximum of six months or until Meta “resumes discussions with the Government of Canada or until it reverses its ban on placing Canadian media news stories on its platforms.”

At least one Hamilton news organization reported that Hamilton councillors had voted for the city to stop posting on Facebook and Instagram altogether, but, according to the wording of the motion and comments from Danko, it appears that the city will still make posts on social media sites but will simply refrain from running advertisements.

On social media sites, users can opt to boost their posts so that they are seen by more people by paying money to run ads.

Social media ads are a common practice among organizations and municipalities.

Danko indicated that the city typically spends $28,000 a year on advertising on Meta platforms.

Analysis by The Hamilton Independent indicates that the city currently has multiple active ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Those ads include advertising the city’s fall compost giveaway, reminding Ticats fans that they can take the bus directly to sports games, encouraging families to walk to school, and promoting resources for those who wish to quit smoking.

Although one could make the argument that some of those ads are unnecessary anyway, none of the councillors present made that argument at the meeting.

However, that viewpoint could potentially explain why some of the more right-leaning councillors also voted in support of Danko’s motion.

Interestingly, a number of left-leaning councillors voted against the motion to suspend the city’s Meta ads.

The voting results were as follows:

In support of Danko’s motion (10): Horwath (Mayor), Nann (Ward 3 – East Hamilton Centre), Hwang (Ward 4 – Hamilton East), Francis (Ward 5 – Hamilton East-Stoney Creek), Jackson (Ward 6 – East Mountain), Pauls (Ward 7 – Central Mountain), Danko (Ward 8 – West/Central Mountain), Tadeson (Ward 11 – Glanbrook-Binbrook-Mount Hope), Cassar (Ward 12 – Ancaster-West Flamborough), Spadafora (Ward 14 – West Mountain)

Opposed to Danko’s motion (4): M. Wilson (Ward 1 – Chedoke-Cootes-Westdale), Kroetsch (Ward 2 – Downtown Hamilton), Beattie (Ward 10 – Stoney Creek-Fruitland-Winona), A. Wilson (Dundas-Central Flamborough)

It appears that Councillor Brad Clark (Ward 9 – Upper Stoney Creek) and Councillor Ted McMeekin (Ward 15 – East Flamborough-Waterdown) were absent from the committee meeting at the time of the vote.

It should also be noted that these committee results still have to be ratified at the next Council meeting, but in this case that appears to be a formality given the strong support for the motion.

The next City Council meeting is on Wednesday, October 11.

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