Google announced via its blog on Thursday that it will be “removing links to Canadian news from Search, News, and Discover products and will no longer be able to operate Google News Showcase in Canada.” Kent Walker, President of Global Affairs, Google & Alphabet, made this announcement.
The move comes in response to Canada enacting a new law entitled Bill C-18 (the Online News Act), requiring Google and Meta to enter into agreements with Canadian news publishers to pay for news content that appears on their sites “if it helps them generate revenue.”
In passing the bill, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez stated, “The law creates a level playing field between online advertising giants and the shrinking news industry.” He then promised to push back on what he describes as “threats” from Facebook and Google to remove journalism from their platforms.
In almost an immediate response to the bill’s passage, Meta pledged last week to pull news from Facebook and Instagram in Canada, citing in their official statement, “The Online News Act is fundamentally flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work, the preferences of the people who use them, and the value we provide news publishers. As the Minister of Canadian Heritage has said, how we choose to comply with the legislation is a business decision we must make, and we have made our choice.”
Now it’s Google’s turn to battle the legislation. In Thursday’s announcement, the company stated, “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. We have been saying for over a year that this is the wrong approach to supporting journalism in Canada and may result in significant changes to our products.”
According to today’s press release from News Media Canada, Google has also informed all Canadian news outlets that it will be cancelling all agreements as of July 31st.
Google has even provided a special website as an overview of its position on the legislation, as well as issuing a standalone PDF document entitled “Key Differences between Australia's News Media Bargaining Code & Canada's Online News Act,” in which the company bullets the “significant differences” between the recent legislation passed in Canada with the similar bill based in Australia in 2021.
In a recent interview with Editor & Publisher Magazine directly after Meta’s announcement to pull Canadian news content from Facebook and Instagram, newly appointed News/Media Alliance CEO Danielle Coffey stated, “They should be ashamed of themselves for depriving citizens of quality journalism and critical information."
Coffey went on to add: "I think that underscores the problem that we have, which is a bigger issue, the dominance of the platforms in and of itself. The fact that they can make a decision that would impact citizens so greatly should be concerning to us.”
E&P has reached out to a number of industry leaders in order gain their response to Google's recent actions.
Jeff Jarvis, Director, Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY's Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, pulled no punches stating to E&P: “Canada's politicians and publishers should have been careful of what they wished for. They wanted to force the question of the relative market valuation for links vs content. As it turns out, content loses. News is of not much value to Facebook and not of much more to Google. And as more people actively avoid news, according to the latest Reuters Institute report, it becomes apparent that commodity news holds less value for the public than journalists like to think. As for the platforms' links to news, they are terribly valuable to publishers -- and now they will lose them. Canadians will lose, publishers will lose, even Google and Facebook will lose at the hands of Canada's attempt at protectionism. The cynicism of it became all too apparent when, as soon as C-18 passed, the Toronto Star and PostMedia revealed their merger talks, demonstrating whom the law would benefit: Hedge funds and investors. Legislators considering Californian and US versions of this baksheesh bill in the CJPA and JCPA had best pay attention and beware.”
Access more stories on News Media vs. Big Tech compensation and antitrust issues at EditorandPublisher.com/BigTechComp
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