Google and Meta threaten to restrict services in Canada over news law

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By Webdesk

Proposed legislation would force tech giants to pay Canadian news publishers for their content.

Google and Meta would withdraw access to news articles in Canada if legislation is passed that forces Internet companies to pay news publishers, business executives have told Canadian lawmakers.

The legislation proposed by Canada would force platforms — such as Google’s parent company Alphabet and Facebook’s parent company Meta Platforms — to strike commercial deals and pay Canadian news publishers for their content, part of a broader global trend of making tech companies pay for news.

Google could be forced to remove links to news articles in Canadian search results if the bill passes, Vice President of News Richard Gingras said in testimony before a Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, citing an “unlimited financial liability” if it had to pay publishers for linking to their sites.

Meta would also end the availability of news content in Canada if the bill is passed as it is currently drafted, said Rachel Curran, the company’s Canada public policy chief.

Ottawa’s proposal is similar to a groundbreaking law Australia passed in 2021, which also led to threats from Google and Facebook to curtail their services. Both eventually struck deals with Australian media companies after amendments to the legislation were offered.

This year, Google tested blocking some Canadian users’ access to news as a possible response to the legislation, a move Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “terrible mistake.”

Google linked to Canadian news publishers more than 3.6 billion times last year, Gingras said, helping those companies monetize ads and new subscriptions.

Curran said Facebook feeds delivered Canadian publishers more than 1.9 billion clicks in the 12 months ending April 2022, worth an estimated $230 million in free marketing.

“A framework that requires us to compensate publishers for links or news content they voluntarily post on our platforms is unworkable,” said Curran.

The bill introduced in April 2022 by Heritage Secretary Pablo Rodriguez is the latest legislation aimed at making digital media platforms pay for linking news content.

“All we ask of tech giants like Facebook and Google is to make fair deals with news outlets when they benefit from their work,” said Laura Scaffidi, spokesperson for the Department of Heritage.

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