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Alphabet to Remove News Links from Google Search in Canada Following Government’s New Legislation

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Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has announced its decision to remove links to news from Canadian publishers on its search engine in response to the Online News Act passed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. The legislation mandates that digital platforms pay local news outlets for their content. Alphabet’s President of Global Affairs, Kent Walker, expressed concerns over the law, stating that it creates uncertainty and exposes the company to potentially unlimited financial liability for facilitating Canadians’ access to news from Canadian publishers.

Tech Giants React to the Legislation:

The move by Alphabet follows Meta Platforms Inc.’s recent announcement that it will no longer make news available on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada. Both tech giants had previously tested blocking news on their platforms. The companies argue that the law unfairly burdens them with paying for content that lacks economic benefits. However, the Canadian government contends that the legislation will provide much-needed revenue to a struggling media sector that has witnessed the closure of 450 outlets between 2008 and 2021.

Alphabet’s Previous News Removal Incidents:

This is not the first time Alphabet has taken such action. In 2014, the company shut down Google News in Spain when the country passed a law requiring news aggregators to compensate publishers. Following an updated copyright law that allowed media outlets to negotiate with digital platforms, the service was relaunched in Spain last year after an eight-year hiatus.

Impact on Canadian News Landscape:

In addition to removing news links from its search engine, Alphabet has also decided to terminate its negotiated agreements with 150 news publications in Canada. In 2022, Google linked to Canadian news publications over 3.6 billion times, generating an estimated annual referral traffic value of C$250 million ($189 million).

Concerns and Reactions:

Kent Walker expressed hope that the government would outline a viable path forward, warning that the legislation could make it more challenging for Canadians to find news online, impede journalists’ ability to reach their audiences, and reduce valuable web traffic for Canadian publishers. Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez criticized tech firms, accusing them of prioritizing spending money to block Canadians from accessing local news instead of compensating the organizations that produce it. News Media Canada, which represents around 500 outlets in the country, criticized Alphabet’s decision, emphasizing the need for all stakeholders to engage responsibly in the regulatory process.

Conclusion:

As Alphabet prepares to remove news links from its Google search engine in Canada, the company’s decision reflects ongoing tensions between tech giants and governments regarding fair compensation for news content. While the legislation aims to support the struggling Canadian media industry, it remains to be seen how this development will impact access to news for Canadian users and the overall dynamics between digital platforms and publishers in the country.

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