Google plans to block Canadian news in Canada following new payment law

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Google announced on Thursday its intention to block Canadian news on its platform in Canada, joining Facebook in escalating efforts against a new law that requires payments to local news publishers. The Alphabet-owned company, Google, will remove links to Canadian news from search results and other products within Canada when the law takes effect in approximately six months. Meta Platforms Inc, the parent company of Facebook, made a similar announcement last week after the passage of Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act.

Canada’s media industry has been advocating for stricter regulation of internet giants to help news businesses recover from financial losses they have suffered while Facebook and Google gained a larger share of the online advertising market. According to the independent budgetary watchdog in Canada, news businesses could potentially receive about C$330 million ($249 million) per year from mandated deals under the legislation.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, the bill’s introducer, has stated that the platforms have no immediate obligations under the act and that the government is open to consulting with them on the regulatory and implementation process. However, Facebook and Google have argued that the proposed regulations are unsustainable for their businesses and have signaled their potential withdrawal of news availability in Canada if the act is not amended.

The Canadian federal government has pushed back against proposed changes, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the companies of using “bullying tactics.” Google’s president of global affairs, Kent Walker, expressed that the law is unworkable and that the regulatory process would not address the “structural issues with the legislation.”

In response to the new law, Google will not only remove links to Canadian news from its Search, News, and Discover products in Canada but also end its News Showcase programme in the country. The affected news outlets will be determined based on the government’s definition of “eligible news businesses” when implementation rules are finalized.

Similar battles have occurred in Australia, where a comparable law was enacted in 2021, leading Google and Facebook to threaten service curtailments. However, both companies reached agreements with Australian media companies after amendments were made to the legislation.

Google argues that Canada’s law is broader than those in Australia and Europe since it places a price on news story links displayed in search results and can apply to outlets that do not produce news. Google proposed an alternative payment approach based on the display of news content, rather than links, and suggested that only businesses adhering to journalistic standards should be eligible.

While the newly enacted Online News Act law aims to provide financial relief to the country’s news publishers, Google and Facebook contend that the payment obligations are unsustainable. The clash between the Canadian government and these tech giants brings attention to the regulation of big tech and its impact on the media industry.

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