Google recently announced that it will be removing links to Canadian news from its Search, News, and Discover products in response to Canada’s Online News Act, also known as Bill C-18. This legislation aims to regulate digital intermediaries and their relationship with news businesses. In this article, we will explore the implications of Bill C-18 and the actions taken by major tech platforms like Google and Meta.
What Is The Online News Act?
Bill C-18, or the Online News Act, is a piece of legislation in Canada that seeks to establish a framework for news businesses to negotiate compensation with digital platforms. The act addresses perceived imbalances in bargaining power between these entities and aims to ensure fair compensation for news content.
To initiate the negotiation process, news businesses must meet specific criteria, such as operating within Canada and employing at least two journalists. If negotiations fail, the act provides for a final-offer arbitration process, where an independent panel reviews the final offers from both parties and makes a binding decision.
The Online News Act is designed to be consistent with freedom of expression and journalistic independence as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Big Tech’s Response
In response to Bill C-18, both Google and Meta have chosen to remove news content from their platforms in Canada. This decision may reflect their concerns about the unpredictable nature of negotiations and the potential financial implications of the new regulatory environment.
Google, in an official statement by Kent Walker, President of Global Affairs for Google & Alphabet, expressed concerns about the legislation’s requirement for payment for displaying news links, which the company refers to as a “link tax.” Google saw this aspect of the law as leading to product uncertainty and exposing the company to unlimited financial liability.
Despite its commitment to Canadian journalism, Google viewed the current form of Bill C-18 as unworkable and chose to remove news links. The company had provided feedback and recommended alternative models, but their suggestions were not considered in the final legislation.
Meta, Facebook’s parent company, also decided to terminate the availability of news content on their platforms for Canadian users. They criticized the Online News Act for overlooking the dynamics of their platforms and users’ preferences, and emphasized their commitment to combating misinformation through their fact-checking network.
The Future of Online News in Canada
The enactment of Canada’s Online News Act represents a significant turning point in the relationship between digital platforms and news businesses. While the law aims to address imbalances and compensate news outlets, the removal of news content by Google and Meta raises questions about the future of news dissemination through digital platforms in Canada.
It remains to be seen how effective and consequential Bill C-18 will be in achieving its goals. The actions taken by tech giants and their concerns about the legislation highlight the complex dynamics between regulation, technology, and journalism.
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