Google to scrap local news links in Canada over Online News Act

Google says it will block Canadian news in the country in response to a new law that aims to make tech giants pay Canadian media for news.

Canada’s parliament passed the Online News Act last week, requiring platforms like Google and Meta’s Facebook to negotiate deals with news providers.

Google’s move comes after Meta announced it would also restrict news content for its Canadian users.

The bill is set to take effect in six months.

A similar law in Australia was tweaked. That legislation passed two years ago, but Australian lawmakers made changes after Meta briefly blocked users in the country from sharing or viewing news on its platforms.

The blackout ended when the amendments were made, and Google and Meta have since negotiated more than 30 deals with Australian media companies.

Google had previously called the Canadian law “unworkable” in its current form and proposed amendments. Both Google and Meta have held talks with the government about the legislation.

But in response, the Canadian government has said the legislation will help provide fair compensation to struggling news outlets and has argued it is necessary “to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news market”.

The Canadian parliament’s independent budget watchdog found news organisations could receive as much as C$329m ($248m; £196m) per year from digital platforms.

But many of the same media associations and outlets that championed the bill may now face a threat to their businesses, as Google fuels a significant portion of web traffic to Canadian news outlets.

At the Globe and Mail, for instance, Google accounts for 30% of the traffic, publisher Phillip Crawley told parliament last month. For Le Devoir, a prominent French language publication, Google drives 40% of its traffic, with nearly 30% coming from social media.

Google did not specify how long its ban on local news links would take place, or whether Canadian users would be shown links to stories about Canada from publishers not based in the country.

“We have now informed the government that when the law takes effect, we unfortunately will have to remove links to Canadian news from our Search, News and Discover products in Canada,” Google said in a blog post.

“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,” it said.

In a statement to the BBC, Google Canada’s policy team said the government had “not given us reason to believe that the regulatory process will be able to resolve structural issues with the legislation”.

But in its post on Thursday, the company said it planned “to participate in the regulatory process” and to “continue to be transparent with Canadians and publishers as we move forward”.

News Media Canada, which represents hundreds of news organisations across the country and had lobbied in favour of the law, said it still believed there was a “viable path forward”.

“Rather than demonstrating their extraordinary market power by withholding access to timely, accurate news for Canadians, this is a time for all stakeholders to act in good faith, as responsible corporate citizens, and engage actively in the regulatory process to ensure that regulation is balanced, predictable and fair,” it said.

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