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 Canada’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.
- You might also like:
- Lisa LaFlamme nominated for best national news anchor
- "Piracy will be the next step”: Expert weighs in on Netflix account-sharing crackdown
- We asked Netflix why its new account-sharing rules hit Canada, but not the US
- Canadians could finally get cheaper internet options thanks to new CRTC policy directive
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.
Three key points on Google testing blocking news links in Canada: (1) Bill C-18 mandates payments for links, not actual use. The “facilitating access to news” approach, creates huge risks to the free flow of information on the Internet. https://t.co/dGsQWDUSfP
— Michael Geist (@mgeist) February 23, 2023
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.
Let’s be clear – Bill C-18 is about making Google and Facebook come to the table to negotiate fairly on the value they derive from news content.
It’s not about the clicks. It’s about them reselling the data from your online activity to advertisers. And news content matters.
— Kevin Desjardins (@KevinDesjardins) February 23, 2023
Those backing the bill refute this and maintain that it has nothing to do with censorship.
Idiots who think google is being forced to censor news due to Bill C-18 and think it’s a power grab by the liberals. The bill is literally telling big tech of they’re going to profit from Canadian new outlets they have to pay their fair share. It’s nothing to do with censorship
— Zack (@Tazay) February 23, 2023
Read more about Bill C-18 and all the things it would take into consideration here.