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Thursday, May 30, 2024

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Google Blocked Access to Canadian News in Response to New Legislation

The tech behemoth restricts local news links for Canadian users following the enactment of a law that mandates payment for news content
In a move that has drawn criticism and concern regarding the accessibility of news content, Google announced on Thursday that it would prohibit Canadian users from accessing local news through its platform. This decision comes on the heels of the Canadian government passing the Online News Act, which necessitates technology companies to compensate news publishers for the content disseminated on their platforms.

The Online News Act, which was signed into law last week, seeks to buttress the beleaguered Canadian news industry, which has witnessed the shuttering of hundreds of publications over the past decade. The law compels tech giants, such as Google, to strike equitable commercial agreements with Canadian news outlets for content shared on their platforms. Companies that fail to comply face the prospect of binding arbitration.

Google, however, has vehemently objected to the new legislation, labeling it as “unworkable.” In a statement, the company expressed its disappointment with the Canadian government’s approach, lamenting the lack of assurance that the “structural issues with the legislation” would be addressed during its implementation phase.

In a blog post, Google further elaborated that the legislation would impede Canadians’ ability to easily locate news online and curtail journalists’ outreach to their audiences. The post indicated that while links to Canadian news would be expunged from its Search, News, and Discover products, Canadians would still be able to directly access news content by entering the website addresses into their browsers or utilizing respective news apps.

The announcement by Google follows the collapse of eleventh-hour negotiations with the Canadian government, which aimed to garner the company’s support for the new law.

Google is not the sole tech giant taking a stand against the legislation. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, previously announced that it would also block Canadian news on its platforms.

Both Google and Meta, which hold a virtual duopoly in the online advertising market, have faced criticism for siphoning off advertising revenues from traditional news organizations while simultaneously benefiting from their content without compensation.

Canada's legislation draws inspiration from Australia's groundbreaking New Media Bargaining Code, which mandated Google and Meta to remunerate news publishers for content shared on their platforms. Notably, Google concluded a five-year agreement with AFP in late 2021, consenting to pay for news content from the agency. Google also entered into two separate commercial deals with the news agency.

As countries worldwide grapple with the balance between supporting journalism and managing the omnipresence of tech giants, the steps taken by Canada and the ensuing reaction from companies like Google may set a precedent for similar legislative efforts globally.
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