Google Plans to Block Canadian News in Response to Publisher Payment Law

Google has announced its intention to block Canadian news content on its platform in Canada, following in the footsteps of Facebook as they both resist a new law mandating payments to local news publishers

Google has announced its intention to block Canadian news content on its platform in Canada, following in the footsteps of Facebook as they both resist a new law mandating payments to local news publishers. Alphabet-owned Google will remove links to Canadian news from search results and other products once the law, known as Bill C-18 or the Online News Act, takes effect in approximately six months.

The Canadian media industry has been advocating for stricter regulations on internet giants to help news businesses recover financial losses incurred during the period when Facebook and Google dominated the online advertising market. According to estimates by Canada’s independent budgetary watchdog, news businesses could receive around C$330 million ($249 million) annually through the deals mandated by the legislation.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, the bill’s introducer, has clarified that the platforms are not immediately bound by the act, and the government is open to consultation with them regarding regulatory and implementation processes. However, Facebook and Google have expressed concerns about the proposed legislation, deeming it unsustainable for their businesses. For months, they have indicated the possibility of limiting news availability in Canada unless the act undergoes amendments.

The Canadian federal government has resisted calls for changes and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the companies of employing “bullying tactics.” Rodriguez criticized the tech giants, stating that they would rather modify their platforms to block Canadians from accessing quality local news than pay their fair share to news organizations.

Google’s President of Global Affairs, Kent Walker, emphasized in a blog post that the law remains unworkable, and the company does not believe the regulatory process can resolve the structural issues associated with the legislation. Walker further stated that Google has informed the government of its decision to remove links to Canadian news from its Search, News, and Discover products when the law comes into effect.

The specific news outlets affected by Google’s action will be determined based on the government’s definition of “eligible news businesses” once the rules are finalized for implementation. Additionally, Google will discontinue its News Showcase program in Canada, which involves agreements with 150 news publications across the country.

The law in question compels online platforms to negotiate with news publishers and compensate them for their content. Similar legislation was passed in Australia in 2021, prompting Google and Facebook to threaten to restrict their services. However, after the law was amended, both companies reached agreements with Australian media organizations.

Google argues that Canada’s law is broader than those in Australia and Europe, as it assigns a monetary value to news story links displayed in search results and can apply to outlets that do not produce news. Google proposed that payment be based on the display of news content rather than links, and eligibility be restricted to businesses that adhere to journalistic standards.

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