Google to block local news in Canada in response to media law

After Ottawa passed a bill forcing digital companies to pay for such information, Google became the latest Silicon Valley behemoth to ban Canadian customers from reading local news on its platform on Thursday.

The Online News Act was signed into law last week, with the goal of bolstering a beleaguered Canadian news industry that has seen hundreds of periodicals close in the last decade.

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It forces digital behemoths to strike reasonable commercial relationships with Canadian news and information providers in exchange for the news and information disseminated on their platforms, or risk binding arbitration.

In a statement, Google said the new law is “unworkable” and that the government has not given it reason to believe “structural issues with the legislation” would be resolved during its implementation.

In a blog post, Google added that it will be “harder for Canadians to find news online” and “for journalists to reach their audiences.”

People in the country can still obtain news from Canadian sites by typing their respective web addresses directly into a browser or through apps.

Google’s declaration follows the failure of last-ditch negotiations with the government to bring the business on board.

Last Thursday, the IT company Meta declared that it, too, will restrict Canadian news on Facebook and Instagram.

The two dominant online advertising corporations have been accused of siphoning money away from conventional news organizations while exploiting their material for free.

“We have informed the government that we have made the difficult decision that… we will be removing links to Canadian news from our Search, News, and Discover products and will no longer be able to operate Google News Showcase in Canada,” Google said.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist, said “the loss of revenues flowing out of newsrooms in Canada is not just a problem for the journalists who are affected, it’s a problem for the whole country.”

“To have a strong culture, to have a healthy society, to have healthy politics, we need great, well-paid journalists,” she said.

An October 2022 report by Canada’s parliamentary budget watchdog estimated the Online News Act would see Canadian newspapers receive about Can$330 million per year from digital platforms.

Canada’s measure is modeled after Australia’s New Media Bargaining Code, a world first that required Google and Meta to pay for news material on their platforms.

At the end of 2021, AFP inked a five-year arrangement with Google enabling the internet giant to pay for material from the news agency.

It also entered into two business agreements with the platform.

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