Google will pull news links in Canada in response to new law

The search firm is joining Meta in reacting to Bill C-18.

REUTERS/Peter Power

Meta isn't the only internet heavyweight removing news content in response to Canada's newly enacted Bill C-18 (aka the Online News Act), which requires that tech companies negotiate compensation with publishers for linked material. Google now says it will pull links to Canadian news stories from its search, News and Discover services in the country. It will also stop operating its News Showcase in Canada when C-18 takes effect in six months.

Google's government affairs VP Cris Turner claims C-18 remains "unworkable legislation," and that Canada's soon-to-be law is unduly harsh. The European Union allows free use of links and short extracts, for example, while the Czech Republic's stricter interpretation of the EU still allowed headlines and links. In Australia, where the law requires that some online services pay for news, Google has negotiated deals that keep its news features available and avoid falling under the law's requirements.

The company maintains that it believes a "vibrant journalism industry" is crucial, and has floated policy ideas it believes will help. These include consultation with experts, investing in newsroom progress and support for conventional news outlets as they transition to digital. The approach dictated by C-18 purportedly leads to "uncertainty" for product strategy and "uncapped" financial penalties.

The move comes just days after Meta said it would remove access to all news content from Facebook and Instagram in Canada. When it balked at similar moves by Australia and New Zealand, it claimed that such legislation lets the government unfairly decide who has to pay, and how much publishers get paid.

As with Meta, Google is using the threat of blocking news as a bargaining tool. Turner says the company still plans to "participate in the regulatory process," and wants the government to develop a "viable path forward." The tech firm is hoping for at least a partial change of heart, to put it simply.

There's no guarantee of a compromise. Politicians drafted Bill C-18 after concerns about a steep drop in ad revenue for publications over the past two decades. Google and other companies have invested in newsroom projects, offered free tools and highlighted news in a bid to support publishers, but legislators clearly aren't convinced these efforts go far enough.