Google to block local news in Canada over media law – Hindustan Times

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Canadian media outlets are bracing for a significant setback, as Google announced on Thursday that it will remove news generated in the country from its Search and News and other platforms, following the enactment of contentious legislation by Ottawa.
The Online News Act became law last week and on Thursday, Kent Walker, Google’s president of Global Affairs for Google and Alphabet, said it was “unworkable” and the tech giant has informed the Canadian Government that once the law takes effect, “we unfortunately will have to remove links to Canadian news from our Search, News and Discover products in Canada.”
It will also revisit the Google News Showcase, under which it has agreements with nearly 150 Canadian publications.
“We’re disappointed it has come to this. We don’t take this decision or its impacts lightly and believe it’s important to be transparent with Canadian publishers and our users as early as possible,” Walker said, in a statement posted by Google.
Action from Google follows a similar announcement by Meta last week, also pertaining the removal of Canadian news content from its platforms, Facebook and Instagram. Meta has started cancelling agreements it had in place with Canadian news outlets.
The major matter that has irked the tech majors is that the law calls for displaying links to news content on their platform to be paid for. “The unprecedented decision to put a price on links (a so-called “link tax”) creates uncertainty for our products and exposes us to uncapped financial liability simply for facilitating Canadians’ access to news from Canadian publishers,” the Google statement added.
Ottawa doesn’t appear willing to compromise. After the Google announcement, Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez tweeted, “Big tech would rather spend money changing their platforms to block news from Canadians instead of paying a small share of the billions they make in advertising dollars. Canadians won’t be bullied. Big tech isn’t bigger than Canada.”
Critics of the legislation had warned of such an outcome. Michael Geist, professor of law at the University of Ottawa, was among them and he tweeted on Thursday that the blame was “squarely” on Rodriguez as he did not take the “risks” of the “flawed” legislation “seriously.”
However, there may still be a window open for an understanding as Google will continue to participate in discussions as the Government finalises a regulatory structure to make the provisions of the act operational. “We hope that the Government will be able to outline a viable path forward,” Google said.
Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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