NEWS30 June 2023

Google to block Canadian news over media law

Media News North America Public Sector

CANADA – Google has joined Meta in restricting access to Canadian news from its platforms in response to an online news law passed by the country’s parliament.

Google offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada

The Online News Act, which received royal assent in Canada, requires large digital platforms to negotiate voluntary commercial agreements with news businesses for the use of their news content on their services.

However, Google has said the law is “unworkable” and has decided to remove links to Canadian news from its Search, News and Discover products when the law, which received royal assent last week, comes into effect in six months.

Last week, Meta also said its Facebook and Instagram platforms would remove Canadian news in response to the new law.

The Canadian government said the law seeks to address the imbalance between digital platforms and Canadian news businesses by encouraging fair compensation for news content shared on those platforms, which the government said benefits platforms directly through advertising income and indirectly through user engagement and subsequent targeted advertising.

Between 2008 and 2020, overall revenue for broadcast television, radio, newspapers and magazines fell by nearly $6bn in Canada, with at least one third of Canadian journalism jobs disappearing between 2010 and 2016 and 474 news media outlets having closed in the country since 2008.

Google said that the company already pays to support Canadian journalism through programmes and partnerships wand was “prepared to do more”, adding that it had agreements with 150 news publications in the country and that referral traffic from its platforms raised CA$250m annually for news companies in the country.

“We’re willing to do more; 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,” Google’s statement explained.

“We plan to participate in the regulatory process and will continue to be transparent with Canadians and publishers as we move forward. We hope that the government will be able to outline a viable path forward.

“Otherwise, we remain concerned that Bill C-18 will make it harder for Canadians to find news online, make it harder for journalists to reach their audiences, and reduce valuable free web traffic to Canadian publishers.”

Google also said it endorsed an alternative model of an independent fund for Canadian journalism supported by both platforms and the Government, an approach that’s worked elsewhere.