Google has launched tests blocking access to news content for some users in Canada in response to the Canadian government’s online news law. Bill C-18, or the Online News Act, would require platforms like Facebook and Google to negotiate deals that would pay news publishers for their content. The bill is currently under discussion in the Canadian Senate.
The company told businessupdates.org that the tests affect “a small percentage” of Canadian users. The tests limit the visibility of Canadian and international news and affect all types of news content.
“We are briefly testing potential product reactions to Bill C-18 that affect a very small percentage of Canadian users,” a company spokesperson told businessupdates.org in an email. We run thousands of tests each year to assess potential changes to Search. We have been completely transparent about our concerns that C-18 is too broad and, if left unchanged, could affect products that Canadians use and rely on every day. We remain committed to supporting a sustainable future for news in Canada and providing solutions that solve Bill C-18.”
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said on Twitter that Canadians should not be intimidated by the tests and that tech giants should be more transparent and accountable.
“It’s disappointing to hear that Google is trying to block access to news sites,” Rodriguez said in a tweet. Canadians are not intimidated. In the end, all we’re asking the tech giants is to compensate journalists when they use their work. That is why we introduced the Online News Act. Tech giants need to be more transparent and accountable to Canadians.”
Last year, Facebook threatened to block it sharing Canadian news content unless the government changes legislation that would force digital platforms to pay news publishers. In 2021, Facebook briefly banned users in Australia from sharing or viewing news links on the platform due to similar legislation. Google is now borrowing from the Meta-owned company’s playbook.
Google’s move isn’t the company’s first time resisting Canadian legislation. Google announced last year concerns about Bill C-11, or the law on online streaming. The bill forces platforms such as YouTube, which is owned by Google, to more prominently display Canadian content. Google argued that the bill would negatively impact creators and viewers and limit the discoverability of content. The Canadian Senate recently passed the bill with dozens of amendments, and it will be reviewed by the House of Commons.
A few months ago, US trade envoy Katherine Tai issued a statement noting that the online news and streaming bills discriminate against American companies. The US government has also expressed concern about the trading implications of the accounts.