Kent Walker, President of Global Affairs at Google & Alphabet, expressed his concerns over Canada’s Bill C-18, the Online News Act, in a blog post dated June 29, 2023. Walker stated that the bill, which mandates tech companies to pay for displaying news links, is unworkable and exposes Google to unlimited financial liability.
Google has been vocal about its opposition to the bill for over a year, arguing that it is not the right approach to support journalism in Canada. The company has warned that the legislation might lead to significant changes to its products. With the bill now enacted, Google has informed the Canadian government that it will have to remove links to Canadian news from its search, news, and discover products. The bill also makes it untenable for Google to continue offering its Google News Showcase product in Canada.
Despite these challenges, Google says that it has been actively supporting Canadian journalism through its programs and partnerships. The company has apparently negotiated agreements with over 150 news publications across Canada and linked to Canadian news publications more than 3.6 billion times at no charge last year. This referral traffic from links has been valued at $250 million CAD annually.
Google also says it tried to improve Bill C-18 by offering constructive feedback and recommending solutions. The company endorsed an alternative model of an independent fund for Canadian journalism, supported by both platforms and the government. However, none of Google’s suggestions for changes to C-18 were accepted.
The blog post also mentioned that as the bill was approaching final passage and royal assent, the Canadian government agreed to discuss some of the most critical issues. Google asked for clarity on financial expectations platforms face for simply linking to news and a specific viable path towards exemption based on its programs to support news and commercial agreements with publishers. However, the government has not provided sufficient certainty that the regulatory process will be able to resolve structural issues with the legislation.
Google went on to say it plans to participate in the regulatory process and will continue to be transparent with Canadians and publishers. However, the company remains concerned that Bill C-18 will make it harder for Canadians to find news online, make it harder for journalists to reach their audiences, and reduce valuable free web traffic to Canadian publishers.
Featured Image Credit: Google