As Canada seeks payment for online news, Google weighs blocking news

MONTREAL, Canada: Google has said that it will trial blocking news content in Canada for some users, in preparation for enforcement of the Canadian government’s "Online News Act" which forces Google to pay news organizations for the news it posts online.

Also known as the House of Commons bill C-18, the act, introduced in April by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, aims to force platforms, such as Meta’s Facebook and Google, to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers for their content.

In an email to Reuters, a Google spokesperson said, "We are briefly testing potential product responses to Bill C-18 that impact a very small percentage of Canadian users. We run thousands of tests each year to assess any potential changes to Search."

Google said that the time-limited trials will only affect a random sampling of less than 4 percent of Canadian users, and will "limit the visibility of Canadian and international news to varying degrees."

In response to Google’s announcement, a spokeswoman for Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said, "Canadians will not be intimidated and called it disappointing that Google is borrowing from Meta’s playbook."

"Canadians need to have access to quality, fact-based news at the local and national levels, and that’s why we introduced the Online News Act. Tech giants need to be more transparent and accountable to Canadians," she added, as reported by Reuters.

In 2022, Facebook said that due to potential legislation that would compel digital platforms to pay news publishers, it might block the sharing of news content on its platform in Canada.

Canada’s news media industry has raised concerns about tech giants, such as Google and Facebook, for some time, and have encouraged the Canadian government for more related regulations.

Since 2008, more than 450 news outlets in Canada have closed, including 64 in the past two years.