Google says, “no news for you”

Google is testing ways to block Canadian users from seeing news content on Search, as part of a spat with the feds over the idea that tech giants should pay up for linking articles. 

Catch-up: Google has called the proposed Bill C-18 (aka The Online News Act) a “link tax” that punishes the company for helping people find things. It also warned the bill could restrict access to information and force payments to outlets that are peddling misinformation.

Driving the news: Google’s tests have left ~4% of Canadians with search results for domestic and international news limited to varying degrees. The threat here is clear: If the feds don’t modify the bill to Google’s liking, it could roll out blocking features at full scale.

  • Facebook has also threatened to block news in Canada, something it did in Australia after the country passed similar laws in 2021, lifting the ban only after amendments.
  • Canada’s heritage department clapped back at Google: “This didn’t work in Australia, and won’t work here… all we’re asking tech giants to do is compensate journalists.”

The proposal exempts platforms from elements of the law if they can strike independent deals with publishers. Many of Canada’s major news outlets have already signed content deals with Google, but the company wants to be able to pick and choose who it pays.

Why it matters: Over 450 Canadian outlets have closed since 2008 (65 of them in the past two years). The bill aims to help recoup ad revenue outlets have lost to Big Tech, but if companies go nuclear and hide news results, it’s users trying to stay informed who will lose.

What’s next: Bill C-18 passed in the House of Commons in December and will be discussed in the Senate in the coming months.