Google to Block Canadian News Content After Passage of Online News Act

Google to Block Canadian News Content After Passage of Online News Act

Published: June 30, 2023

Google has announced that it will block links to Canadian news content from its Search, News, and Discover products when a new law that would require them to pay news publishers for their content takes effect.

The move comes after Canada’s parliament passed Bill C-18 or the Online News Act, which had been heavily criticized by major online platforms such as Google and Meta Platforms.

In a statement, Kent Walker, Google & Alphabet’s president for global affairs, likened the bill’s effect to imposing a tax on links.

"We're disappointed it has come to this. We don't take this decision or its impacts lightly and believe it's important to be transparent with Canadian publishers and our users as early as possible," Walker said.

"The unprecedented decision to put a price on links (a so-called 'link tax') creates uncertainty for our products and exposes us to uncapped financial liability simply for facilitating Canadians' access to news from Canadian publishers," he added.

Walker further noted that Google had been supporting Canadian journalism through its partnerships and programs, including its Google News Showcase through which they have agreements with over 150 Canadian news publications. He added that in 2022, Google linked to Canadian news publications over 3 billion times at no charge.

“We’re willing to do more,” Walker said. “We just can’t do it in a way that breaks the way that the web and search engines are designed to work, and that creates untenable product and financial uncertainty.”

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The Canadian government, however, has stood behind the contentious bill, which aims to ensure “fair revenue sharing between digital platforms and news outlets.” The new legislation is expected to take effect in six months.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who introduced the bill last year, expressed his dismay with Google’s decision.

"Big tech would rather spend money to change their platforms to block Canadians from accessing good quality and local news instead of paying their fair share to news organizations," Rodriguez said in a statement.

"This shows how deeply irresponsible and out of touch they are, especially when they make billions of dollars off of Canadian users. Canada needs to have a strong, free, and independent press. It's fundamental to our democracy," he added.

Last week, Meta also said that it would stop news access for Canadian users on its platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, over the new legislation. In early June, it also warned that it would do the same in California if a similar law, called the California Journalism Preservation Act, was passed.

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