Google says it will block news in Canada

Google follows Meta in pushing back against Canada’s controversial new bill that would make technology companies pay publishers for content.

Google has announced that it will remove links to Canadian news from its search results and other platforms in response to the Online News Act passed by the country’s parliament last week.

The new bill, which should take effect in six months, will require internet giants like Google and Meta to negotiate deals with local news organizations and pay for the content they produce.

Meta has also said that it would end news availability for Canadian users on Facebook and Instagram prior to the bill taking effect. Both companies held talks with the Canadian government over legislation, but the bill remained “unworkable,” Google said.

“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,” Kent Walker, Google’s president of global affairs, said in a blog post.

The 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,” he said.

“Bullying” tactics

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriquez, the author of the bill, said the government would not back down from legislation. He called Google and Meta “deeply irresponsible” and “out of touch.”

“Big tech would rather spend money changing their platforms to block news from Canadians instead of paying a small share of the billions they make in advertising dollars,” he said in a statement, adding that “Canadians won’t be bullied.”

A similar law was passed in Australia in 2021, which led to threats from Google and Facebook to curtail their services. Both companies eventually struck deals with Australian media companies after the legislation was amended.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was confident the companies would come around on the Canadian legislation too, but Google argued that the country’s law is broader and can apply to outlets that do not produce news.

It said that displaying news content, not links, should be a basis for payment and that only businesses producing news according to journalistic standards be eligible for a scheme.

The bill seeks to “enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace and contribute to its sustainability.” It’s the result of calls from Canada’s media industry for stricter regulation of the two internet giants, which have a combined 80% share of all online ad revenue in Canada.

According to Canadian government data, Google and Facebook earn $9.7 billion a year from ad revenue.

It’s estimated that Canadian news businesses could receive about $249 million per year from deals struck under the new legislation, but could also suffer devastating consequences if Google and Meta block their content.