Here's why Google is blocking some news for Canadians

Feb 23 2023, 9:00 pm

Google is blocking certain news websites in Canada as a test, following a new bill.

Bill C-18 was tabled in June last year and is aimed at “respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada.”

According to the feds, it would enact the Online News Act that proposes to regulate digital platforms acting as intermediaries in Canadaā€™s news media ecosystem.

It would enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news market by introducing a new bargaining framework that supports news businesses to get fair compensation to support news businesses to secure fair compensation when their content is made available by dominant digital news intermediaries and generates a profit.

In layperson’s terms, it would enforce and facilitate deals between news outlets and platforms like Google, Instagram, and Facebook, which use their news content.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) would oversee these deals.

Google confirmed that it’ll run the test in an email to Daily Hive. It will span over four to five weeks and impact only 4% of Canadian Google users. In preparation for the bill’s outcome, which would include new obligations, the company is exploring its product responses.

A change is not guaranteed or promised yet, however. Google and platforms like it run tons of tests each year to improve its functions.

That said, Google admitted that it has concerns about Bill C-18’s negative impacts on Canadians, such as limiting easy access to digital news. It could also end up in major expenses for the business.

Canada considers search engines and social media services a part of the digital news intermediary network. Messages services like WhatsApp, which allow people to communicate privately, are not part of this.

If passed, the act will only apply to platforms in case of a “significant bargaining power imbalance between the operators of a digital news intermediary and the news outlets producing the news content a digital news intermediary makes available.”

Bill C-18 has been widely debated. Some are convinced that platforms like Google blocking news poses the threat of censorship and that Bill C-18 could be used as a tool for targeted propaganda.

“The ‘facilitating access to news’ approach creates huge risks to the free flow of information on the internet,” said law professor Michael Geist on Twitter.

Others think it could truly nourish local Canadian journalism. Kevin Desjardins, president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, believes it’s all about fair negotiation.

“It’s not about the clicks. It’s about them reselling the data from your online activity to advertisers. And news content matters,” he said on Twitter on Thursday.

Those backing the bill refute this and maintain that it has nothing to do with censorship.

Read more about Bill C-18 and all the things it would take into consideration here.

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