Google Plans to Remove News Links Amidst Disagreements on the Online News Act

Google Plans to Remove News Links Amidst Disagreements on the Online News Act
FILE PHOTO: Google app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Google has stated its intent to remove news links from its search engine by year-end, voicing concerns over the Online News Act. This legislation, also known as Bill C-18, mandates tech giants to compensate media outlets for news content shared or repurposed on their platforms.

Federal Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge remarked on Friday that the rapid evolution of the Canadian media landscape leaves no room to await a “perfect” solution to the act. “We need to put our foot in the door and start doing it,” she expressed, emphasizing the necessity for swift action to address the rapid challenges facing the news industry.

St-Onge shared her views at the MINDS international news agency conference in Toronto. “Even though it’s not perfect, even though some are not pleased with what we’re doing, but this new challenge is coming so fast that we need to address it as quickly as possible,” she emphasized. The Minister believes that the government’s delayed response in regulating digital platforms has led to the initiation of this law.

The act, set to come into force in December, seeks to rejuvenate a beleaguered news industry by compelling digital giants to strike deals with news publishers for compensation. This summer, tech conglomerate Meta proactively began removing news accessible to Canadians on its Facebook and Instagram platforms. St-Onge perceives this as a form of intimidation, stating, “They’ve used it elsewhere in the world. They are also sending you, and the entire world a message, that they will resist any type of regulation.”

At the same conference, St-Onge urged representatives from over 20 countries to resist succumbing to such tactics, emphasizing, “We encourage and stand with other countries who are thinking about taking actions. Don’t be intimidated. It’s our responsibility to protect press freedoms.”

Google Plans to Remove News Links Amidst Disagreements on the Online News Act
Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge, left, speaks alongside Frederic Vanasse, general manager and editor of The Canadian Press french services, during the MINDS International conference in Toronto, Friday, Oct. 6, 2023. PHOTO BY COLE BURSTON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

While Google acknowledges the positive intentions behind the legislation, it has reservations. “We continue to have serious concerns that the core issues ultimately may not be solvable through regulation and that legislative changes may be necessary,” commented Shay Purdy, Google Canada spokesman.

Part of Google’s contention lies with the draft regulations that outline how companies can be exempted from the law based on their contributions to Canadian media revenue. Recent federal estimations suggest that Google would need to contribute about $172 million annually, a figure Google claims far exceeds their previous expectations.

Further, Google views these draft regulations as lacking a cap on liability. The company claims, “This is well in excess of the economic value Google derives from news-seeking queries,” and stresses the non-viability of both the proposed amount and structure.

While Google remains more communicative with the government than Meta, it’s clear that concerns linger regarding the potential costs under the new law. St-Onge has confirmed that the government’s regulatory reach will not end with the News Act but will also encompass legislation on artificial intelligence.

She concluded, “It is a first step. But our modern governments are entering a new world, just like we all are, so we have to adapt.”