Google removes news previews in France to avoid paying publishers

It'll cut snippets and image previews unless publishers allow them.

Google has announced that it will not pay publishers in France for search results, and will instead show stripped back results for News. That will happen next month when France enforces new rules base on Europe's controversial copyright law. "We will no longer display an overview of the content in France for European press publishers, unless the publisher tells us that it's okay," said Google in a blog. It added that publishers will get new webmaster settings that will allow them to specify how much information they want to preview in News results.

The "Copyright Directive" law makes large platforms like Google, Facebook and YouTube liable for content uploaded to their sites. They'll be required to check for violations, and news aggregators must pay for snippets that go beyond "individual words or very short extracts," according to the law. Google in many cases may not be able to include images in results, either.

Google eliminated News completely in Spain after the nation passed a similar law, and previewed the potential bare bones search results after the EU rules went into effect. Showing reduced results may hurt publishers, because readers are more likely to click on results with excerpts or images.

This was predictable. We could have expected this sort of blackmail. We're going to have to look at all the legal aspects.

France was among the EU nations that pushed strongly for the the new rules and is the first country to implement them. Publishers there believe that Google is profiting at their expense by showing portions of content for free, causing them to lose €250 million and €320 million euros per year.

However, Google's VP of News, Richard Gingras, said in a separate blog that the its snippets help, rather than harm publishers, and that it sends eight billion website visits to news sites in Europe alone. "We don't accept payment from anyone to be included in search results," he said. "We sell ads, not search results, and every ad on Google is clearly marked. That's also why we don't pay publishers when people click on their links in a search result."

Google also noted that it provides value to the news industry in other ways. "Google's advertising technologies are used by many websites, including news publishers, where publishers retain the vast majority of the ad revenue," said Gingras. "In 2018, Google sent $14.5 billion to publishers around the world."

European news publishers, which are trying to cope with falling revenues, condemned Google's actions. "This was predictable," Joy de Looz-Corswarem of the European Newspaper Publishers' Association told the AFP. "We could have expected this sort of blackmail. We're going to have to look at all the legal aspects."