In November 2017, the government announced it was scrapping the company’s $1.3 billion investment in WhatsApp, a messaging service that allows users to send and receive text messages.
That was the last time the company was publicly traded.
A few weeks later, on Dec. 6, 2018, a Twitter post announcing the move to a new, non-government-owned company was deleted.
The government was forced to reinstate the company under a law passed in March 2020.
It also said it would continue to pay $5 billion in dividends to shareholders and pay $2 billion in “special dividends” to the government.
The last dividend payment to shareholders was paid on March 18, 2020, and the government paid out $7.3 million in 2018 and $7 million in 2019.
WhatsApp is owned by Facebook Inc. In 2018, Facebook was ordered to pay about $1 billion to shareholders, as part of a settlement over a privacy breach involving Facebook’s WhatsApp service.
Facebook was accused of failing to adequately protect users’ data by failing to encrypt its WhatsApp messaging service, which allowed people to send messages to friends without their knowledge.
In 2019, the company agreed to pay more than $400 million to the U.S. government and the European Union for data breaches in Europe.
The data collected by Facebook, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., was sold to U.K.-based internet giant BSkyB for $4.4 billion.
BSkyb is now part of BSkyF.
The company said it plans to “re-prioritize” its WhatsApp business.
The WhatsApp deal has caused outrage.
“The government’s decision to axe WhatsApp is a huge step backwards for the internet and its users,” said Evan Greer, president of Free Press Canada, an advocacy group that supports net neutrality.
“I am sickened by this.
This is a sad day for the web.”
The move to privatize WhatsApp was made without consultation or public notice, the Communications Minister said at the time.
“This decision is a step backwards in Canada’s efforts to provide a free and open internet,” said Minister of State for Information Technology, Innovation and Science James Moore in a statement.
“Canada will continue to build on the foundation of the open and democratic internet that it has enjoyed for decades.”
The government announced a new $1-billion investment to fund a “Digital Strategy for Canada,” which is to be led by an independent group of technologists and researchers.
The group includes members of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the National Research Council, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Broadcasters’ Association of Canada.
The plan is to “build upon the existing digital strategy, the one that we have been implementing in the digital services space, and create a digital infrastructure that can serve as the basis for a new digital future,” Moore said.
The new Digital Strategy will be launched in 2019, with the government making a commitment to spend $1,000 per person on digital services in the next five years.