The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) is accusing Google of using bullying tactics as the digital giant confirms it’s been testing limiting Canadian users from viewing news content ahead of the potential passage of Bill C-18, the Online News Act.
Google revealed Wednesday it has been blocking fewer than four per cent of Canadian users from viewing news content in a five-week test run, encompassing online stories from both Canadian broadcasters and newspapers. The change applies to both its search engine and the Discover feature on Android devices.
Bill C-18 proposes a regime, overseen by the CRTC, to regulate digital platforms like Google and Facebook, which would enact a new bargaining framework compelling digital intermediaries displaying content links to compensate Canadian news outlets.
Kevin Desjardins, President of the CAB, says Google’s latest tactic underlines why the Online News Act is so vital.
“These are bully tactics, and Google is trying to push the Senate to back down on Bill C-18. We hope Senators will see these actions for what they are,” said Desjardins, in a statement. “Bill C-18 was introduced to set up fair negotiations between news organizations and these global digital giants on the value of their news content. Google has shown they’re willing to block Canadians’ vital access to legitimate news content to maintain their dominance in the advertising field.”
“Google and other global digital giants such as Facebook have shown that they do not intend to play fair, and they will do everything they can to continue to set the rules that work best for themselves, no matter the detriment to the public interest,” the statement continued.
Desjardins maintains that with Google and Facebook’s dominance in the advertising space, they’ve been able to use news content generated by private broadcasters to identify Canadian consumer demos and sell that data back to advertisers.
“Those advertising dollars used to support our news organizations and cultural institutions, but now they are flowing out of Canada to Silicon Valley,” said Desjardins. “That is why we need Bill C-18 – so that Canadian news organizations have a fair opportunity to be compensated for the value of their dependable, professional news content, and so that Canadians continue to have access to information from news media they know they can trust.”
Canadian Heritage Min. Pablo Rodriguez tweeted Thursday, in response to Google’s confirmation of its news blocking trial, that “tech giants need to be more transparent and accountable to Canadians.”
“It’s disappointing to hear that Google is trying to block access to news sites. Canadians won’t be intimidated. At the end of the day, all we’re asking the tech giants to do is compensate journalists when they use their work,” wrote Rodriguez.
Bill C-18 passed in the House of Commons in mid-December and is now with the Senate for further study.
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