Google set to remove Canadian news links in Canada over online news law

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Published June 29, 2023 at 1:43 pm

Google said Thursday it will remove links to Canadian news on its platforms in Canada because of the Liberal government’s new law, which forces digital giants to compensate media outlets for content they share or otherwise repurpose online.

In response, the tech giant said it will remove Canadian news links from Google News — a personalized aggregator service available by web or app that highlights local news — and from Google Discover, a feature on mobile phones that helps people find content.

Only Canadian news will be blocked, so Canadian users will still be able to see content from Fox News or BBC, for example.

The company said it will also end Google News Showcase in Canada, a product the company uses to license news from over 150 local publishers. Those existing deals will not be impacted until the company ends News Showcase.

Google said it has informed the Liberal government of its decision. It did not say exactly when it will remove news, but it will happen before the law comes into force. The law passed last week and will come into effect by the end of the year.

Meta made a similar announcement last week, saying that it will remove news from social media platforms Facebook and Instagram before the law is in force. It is also ending existing deals with local publishers.

Meta is already running a test to block news for up to five per cent of its Canadian users. Google ran a similar test earlier this year.

Kent Walker, president of global affairs for Google and its parent company Alphabet, said he’s disappointed it has come to this but that the law is “unworkable.”

In a blog post published to Google’s website on Thursday, Walker said the bill creates a price on links, resulting in an uncapped financial liability “simply for facilitating Canadians’ access to news from Canadian publishers.”

“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 wrote.

The Online News Act requires both companies to enter into agreements with news publishers to pay them for news content that appears on their sites if it helps them generate money.

Google had been seeking assurances about how much that could cost them, and how the bargaining process will unfold. Those details are likely to become clear after the bill’s regulatory process is complete, which Google said it will take part in.

Earlier this week, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez told The Canadian Press he is hopeful that the government will come to a positive resolution with both companies to prevent them from removing news.

Rodriguez also said his government will continue to support newsrooms if Google and Meta pull news from their platforms, though he did not say exactly how that will be done.

The Online News Act aims to create new government oversight for digital giants who dominate the online advertising market.

The Liberal government views Meta and Google’s dominance on the internet, and their decision to remove news, as a threat to Canadian democracy at a time when the news industry continues to face cuts due to declining ad revenue.

Since 2008, nearly 500 newsrooms have closed across the country, Rodriguez said.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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