Google to block local news in Canada in response to media law

Alphabet's company joins Meta on removing access after Online News Act becomes law

Google's offices in Toronto, Ontario. Reuters
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Google on Thursday became the latest Silicon Valley giant to block Canadian users from seeing local news on its platform after Ottawa passed a bill requiring tech companies to pay for such content.

The Online News Act became law last week, aiming to support a struggling Canadian news sector where hundreds of publications have closed in the past decade.

It requires digital giants to make fair commercial deals with Canadian outlets for the news and information that is shared on their platforms, or face binding arbitration.

In a statement, Google said the new law is “unworkable” and that the government had not given it reason to believe “structural issues with the legislation” would be resolved during its implementation.

In a blog post, Google said it would be “harder for Canadians to find news online” and “for journalists to reach their audiences".

But people in the country will still be able to access news from Canadian sites by typing their web address directly into a browser or through apps.

Google's announcement comes after the failure of last-ditch talks with the government aimed at bringing the company onboard.

Tech giant Meta announced last Thursday that it would also block Canadian news on Facebook and Instagram.

The two companies, which dominate online advertising, have been accused of draining cash away from traditional news organisations while using their content for free.

“We have informed the government that we have made the difficult decision that … we will be removing links to Canadian news from our Search, News and Discover products, and will no longer be able to operate Google News Showcase in Canada,” Google said.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist, said: “The loss of revenue flowing out of newsrooms in Canada is not just a problem for the journalists who are affected, it's a problem for the whole country.

“To have a strong culture, to have a healthy society, to have healthy politics, we need great, well-paid journalists."

An October 2022 report by Canada's parliamentary budget watchdog estimated that under the Online News Act, Canadian newspapers would receive about C$330 million ($248.9 million) a year from digital platforms.

Canada's measure builds on Australia's New Media Bargaining Code, a world first, that made Google and Meta pay for news content on their platforms.

Updated: June 30, 2023, 12:41 AM