In a move that further escalates the battle against a new law requiring payments to local news publishers, Google announced on Thursday its intention to block Canadian news on its platform in Canada.
This decision comes shortly after Facebook-owner Meta Platforms Inc made a similar announcement last week, following the passage of Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, Investors King gathered.
The Canadian media industry has been pushing for stricter regulations on internet giants like Facebook and Google, in an effort to enable news organizations to recover financial losses incurred during the years when these platforms dominated the online advertising market.
Last year, Canada’s independent budgetary watchdog estimated that news businesses could potentially receive approximately C$330 million ($249 million) per year through mandated deals outlined in the legislation.
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, the bill’s proponent, stated that the platforms are not immediately obligated to comply with the act, and the government is open to consulting with them regarding regulatory and implementation processes.
However, Facebook and Google deemed the proposed regulations as unsustainable for their businesses and have repeatedly hinted at the possibility of discontinuing news availability in Canada unless the act was amended.
Despite the government’s resistance to making changes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly criticized the tech companies in June, accusing them of employing “bullying tactics.”
Rodriguez echoed this sentiment, condemning Google’s decision to block Canadian news as an irresponsible and out-of-touch move, emphasizing that these tech giants prefer to spend money altering their platforms to restrict Canadians from accessing quality news instead of contributing their fair share to news organizations.
Kent Walker, Google’s president of global affairs, expressed the company’s belief that the law remains unworkable and the regulatory process will not resolve the “structural issues with the legislation.”
In a blog post, Walker announced that Google had informed the government of its decision to remove links to Canadian news from its Search, News, and Discover products in Canada once the law takes effect in approximately six months.
The specific news outlets affected by Google’s decision will be determined based on the government’s definition of “eligible news businesses” once final rules for implementation are established.
Additionally, Google will discontinue its News Showcase program in Canada, which includes agreements with 150 news publications across the country. Notably, Reuters has a contract with Google to produce News Showcase panels, including in Canada.
The Online News Act forces online platforms to engage in negotiations with news publishers and compensate them for their content.
A similar law passed in Australia in 2021 triggered threats from both Google and Facebook to limit their services, but they eventually reached agreements with Australian media companies after the legislation was amended.
Google has argued that Canada’s law is broader in scope compared to those in Australia and Europe, asserting that it places a monetary value on news story links displayed in search results and may apply to outlets that do not produce news.
The search engine giant had proposed an alternative approach, suggesting that payment be based on the display of news content rather than mere links, and that only businesses adhering to journalistic standards be eligible for compensation.
As the battle between tech giants and governments over news regulation continues to unfold, the Canadian media landscape faces an uncertain future with the potential consequences of Google and Facebook’s actions reverberating throughout the industry
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