In response to the Liberal government's proposed Online News Act, also known as Bill C-18, Google is conducting a trial run of a potential response that blocks Canadian users from viewing news content. The bill requires digital giants such as Google and Meta, which owns Facebook, to negotiate deals that would compensate Canadian media companies for republishing their content on their platforms.
Google has stated that it is temporarily limiting access to news content for under four percent of its Canadian users, while it assesses possible responses to the bill. This includes the search engine and the Discover feature on Android devices, which carries news and sports stories. The test will run for about five weeks, during which all types of news content, including content created by Canadian broadcasters and newspapers, will be affected.
Product Responsive Test
Responses TestGoogle runs thousands of tests each year to assess potential changes to its search engine, and it is briefly testing potential product responses to Bill C-18 that impact a very small percentage of Canadian users, according to Google spokesman Shay Purdy. CBC/Radio-Canada, which does not have a formal partnership in place with Google that compensates the broadcaster for the use of its news content, said it was not given any advance notice that Google was taking this step.
Canadians Will Not Be Intimidated
A spokesperson for Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said that Canadians will not be intimidated and called it disappointing that Google is borrowing from Meta's playbook. Canadians need access to quality, fact-based news at the local and national levels, which is why the government introduced the Online News Act. The spokesperson added that tech giants need to be more transparent and accountable to Canadians.
Australian Law on Online News Bill
Facebook warned last year that it might block sharing of news content on its platform in Canada over concerns about legislation that would compel digital platforms to pay news publishers. However, a similar Australian law, which took effect in March 2021 after talks with the big tech firms led to a brief shutdown of Facebook news feeds in the country, has largely worked, according to a government report.
The news media industry in Canada has asked the government for more regulation of tech companies to enable the industry to recoup financial losses suffered in the years that Facebook and Google have been steadily gaining greater market share of advertising. Over 450 news outlets in Canada have closed since 2008, including 64 in the last two years.
Senate approval of Bill C-18 would provide critical support for ethnic media, publishers say. However, Google tells MPs that the online news bill is flawed and won't help media outlets.
As Google temporarily blocks Canadian users from accessing news content as part of a test run of potential responses to the Online News Act, there is concern among Canadian media companies about the financial losses they have suffered in the years that Facebook and Google have gained a greater market share of advertising. The government introduced the Online News Act to require digital giants to negotiate deals that compensate Canadian media companies for republishing their content on their platforms. The bill aims to provide critical support for ethnic media, while tech companies need to be more transparent and accountable to Canadians.
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