Google has joined Meta in announcing that it will remove links to Canadian news stories from its search engine results in response to the passage of Bill C-18, the Online News Act.
Google, which has been testing news blocking since earlier this year, announced the move in a blog post Thursday, saying that the legislation “remains unworkable.”
“The government has not given us reason to believe that the regulatory process will be able to resolve structural issues with the legislation,” wrote Kent Walker, President of Global Affairs, Google & Alphabet. “As a result, we have informed the Government that we have made the difficult decision that when the law takes effect 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.”
The Google News Showcase program had negotiated agreements covering over 150 Canadian news publications, linking to Canadian news publications more than 3.6 billion times, according to the company, which values that referral traffic at $250 million CAD annually.
Google says the government did agree to discuss some of its more critical issues with Bill C-18 last week, just as it was approaching final passage and Royal Assent, in which the company sought clarity on financial expectations platforms might face for linking to news, as well as potential exemptions based on existing commercial agreements with publishers and programs supporting journalism.
“While we appreciate the Government’s acknowledgement that our concerns were reasonable and confirmation that the law will not apply until they adopt implementing regulations, they have not provided us with sufficient certainty that the regulatory process will be able to resolve structural issues with the legislation (such as forced payment for links and uncapped financial liability),” wrote Walker. “We hope that the Government will be able to outline a viable path forward. Otherwise, we remain concerned that Bill C-18 will make it harder for Canadians to find news online, make it harder for journalists to reach their audiences, and reduce valuable free web traffic to Canadian publishers.”
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