Google has temporarily blocked some Canadian users from viewing news content.
The company says the move is a response to the Liberal government’s proposed Online News Act, or Bill C-18, which would require Internet giants to compensate Canadian media companies for republishing their work.
WHAT IS BILL C-18?
First introduced in June 2022, Bill C-18 would essentially force companies like Google and Meta, which owns Facebook, to negotiate deals to pay Canadian media companies for the content they republish on their platforms. .
“The bill introduces a new bargaining framework intended to support news companies to secure fair compensation when dominant digital news intermediaries make their news content available and generate economic profit,” a government explanatory note says. “It seeks to support balanced negotiations between the companies that operate dominant digital news intermediaries and the companies responsible for the media that produce this news content.”
The bill passed the House of Commons in December and will soon be considered by the Senate. In its current version, non-compliance could result in fines of up to $10 million for a first offense.
“Canadians need access to quality, factual news locally and nationally, and that is why we introduced the Online News Act,” a spokesman for Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez told CTVNews.ca. “Tech giants need to be more transparent and accountable to Canadians.”
WHY IS GOOGLE BLOCKING NEWS CONTENT?
According to Google, the company is testing ways to comply with the new rules proposed in Bill C-18.
“We are briefly testing potential product responses to Bill C-18 that affect a very small percentage of Canadian users,” a Google spokesperson told CTVNews.ca. “We run thousands of tests each year to assess any potential changes to search.”
The test affects the ubiquitous Google search engine as well as news sources on Android devices. Such tests, Google says, don’t always result in permanent changes.
“We have been completely transparent about our concern that C-18 is too broad and, if left unchanged, could affect the products Canadians use and rely on every day,” the spokesperson added. “We remain committed to supporting a sustainable future for news in Canada and offering solutions that fix Bill C-18.”
The company expressed its opposition to the proposed legislation in an October appearance before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, who was studying the bill. Instead of negotiating with Canadian media companies, Google has proposed contributing to a fund that would pay them indirectly. The company also expressed concern that the proposed law would favor larger outlets over smaller ones, and that it does not require media companies to adhere to basic journalistic standards, which could “lead to the proliferation of misinformation.” and clickbait”.
“We do not believe these measures are in the interest of Canadians, nor are they an effective response to the unique challenges facing Canadian news publishers,” Google Canada vice president and country general manager Sabrina Geremia said in a statement. November 2022 Blog Post. “As currently written, this legislation will not strengthen or sustain the Canadian news ecosystem and will make it more difficult for Canadians to find and share authoritative news online.”
HOW DO I KNOW IF THIS IMPACTS ME?
Google says less than four percent of its Canadian users are affected by the test, a not insignificant number considering that Google’s search engine enjoys a roughly 90 percent market share in the country.
To find out if you’re one of them, just open Google’s search engine, type in a Canadian-themed word like “Trudeau” or “Ottawa,” and then click Google’s “News” tab. If you see stories from Canadian media outlets like CTV News, your account will probably not be affected. If you’re looking primarily at news sources from the US and elsewhere, chances are you’re in the top four percent.
HOW ARE CANADIANS REACTING?
Facebook’s parent company Meta previously issued a similar warning about blocking news content in Canada. When a related law came into force in Australia in 2021, Facebook briefly shut down news feeds in the country.
“It’s disappointing to hear that Google seems to be borrowing from Facebook’s playbook,” said the spokesman for Canada’s wealth ministry. “This didn’t work in Australia, and it won’t work here because Canadians won’t be intimidated. At the end of the day, all we ask of the tech giants is that they compensate journalists when they use their work. “
Tech analyst Carmi Levy calls Google’s actions “outrageous.”
“Google is playing bully, trying to push Ottawa back because this new law, Bill C-18, the Online News Act, is something that will threaten their core business,” Levy told CTV News. “You’ll make less money for that; you’ll eventually have to pay media platforms for content that you then take and distribute on your own platform and make money through ads. So the free ride is over, Google isn’t happy, and it’s because of that they are doing that”.
Andrew Sullivan is President and CEO of the internet society, a global non-profit organization that advocates for an open and globally connected Internet. In February 2023 impact assessment document, Sullivan and the group argued that Bill C-18 will ultimately harm the Internet and restrict the growth of the digital economy. He says that blocking news content is “an almost certain way to comply with C-18.”
“Responsible network operators test features like this all the time to make sure they work as expected,” Sullivan told CTVNews.ca. “It’s a shame that the Online News Act tries to make Canada choose between full access to the entire Internet and finding some way to support some news businesses in Canada. If it passes, it will be a force to fragment the Internet, and that won’t It will be good for no one.”
With Canadian Press archives