Google joins Meta in telling Canada it will not pay for news

Once the Online News Act comes into force, Google said it will remove links to news organisations in Canada from its Search, News and Discover products.

In a further blow to the Canadian government’s hopes to make Big Tech pay news organisations for their content, Google has joined Meta in deciding to halt news websites in the country.

In an update yesterday (29 June), Google president of global affairs Kent Walker said that the Online News Act passed by the Canadian parliament last week “remains unworkable” and exposes the search giant to “uncapped financial liability”.

Walker argued that the Canadian government has not given Google reason to believe that the regulatory process will be able to resolve “structural issues” with the legislation that requires companies to pay for “simply showing links to news, something that everyone else does for free”.

As a response, Walker said Google has informed the Canadian government that it will remove links to Canadian news from its Search, News and Discover products in Canada once the law comes into effect. It will also stop offering its Google News Showcase product in the country.

“We’re disappointed it has come to this,” Walker added. “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.”

Canada’s Online News Act, also known as Bill C-18, received royal assent on 22 June and is now expected to take six months to come into force.

What is the Online News Act?

According to the Canadian government, Bill C-18 will require the largest digital platforms, such as Google and Facebook, to “bargain fairly with Canadian news businesses for the use of their news content on their services”.

“This enactment regulates digital news intermediaries to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace and contribute to its sustainability.”

A similar groundbreaking law was passed in Australia two years ago, which saw Meta – then Facebook – block content from Australian news media from appearing on its platform overnight.

Google’s latest decision comes less than a week after Meta said it is planning to end access to news on Facebook and Instagram in Canada for the same reason, something it has threatened to do for a long time.

To comply with the law, Meta has been conducting product tests – currently impacting “a small percentage” of users in Canada – that will allow for its platforms to end news availability.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau told reporters earlier this month that Big Tech was using strong-arm tactics to avoid paying for news.

“The fact that these internet giants would rather cut off Canadians’ access to local news than pay their fair share is a real problem and now they’re resorting to bullying tactics to try and get their way – it’s not going to work.”

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