Bill C-18: Heritage minister ‘surprised’ by Google news ban

Canada’s Minister of Cultural Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, said he was surprised by Google’s announcement to stop hosting links to Canadian media outlets.

“Mr. Mehta, I always said it was complicated, but as of this morning, the conversation is still going on,” Rodriguez said Thursday afternoon on CTV’s Powerplay. “I’m a little surprised by Google’s response.”

Earlier in the day, Google announced it would be removing Canadian news from its platform and terminating existing contracts with local publishers under the Liberal government’s online news law.

Formerly known as Bill C-18, the Online News Act gives digital giants like Google and Facebook’s parent company Meta a ban on media for content shared, previewed, or reused on their platforms. Force publishers to pay fees. Meta has also confirmed that it will terminate contracts with local publishers that pulled Canadian news from Facebook and Instagram and helped hire emerging journalists.

“We have all the power tech giants, including big-name lawyers, coming here to have a powerful presence to say to parliamentarians and the people’s elected government, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’” he said. I can’t have it,” he said. “It is unacceptable. We are a sovereign nation.”

Rodriguez said he was surprised by Google’s announcement because the law is not yet in force. He said dialogue with the company is ongoing and that some common ground has been reached.

“Roughly 500 news outlets across the country have closed their doors…and will continue to close their doors,” Rodriguez said. “The status quo doesn’t work because money is flowing to tech giants.”

Although the Biden administration has not considered the bill, some U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern that it unfairly targets U.S. companies.

“It was no coincidence that the United States did not take a position on the C-18,” US Ambassador to Canada David L. Cohen told CTV Powerplay on Thursday. “The letter was not lost in the mail, just that there was enough discussion and a decision that this was not something we chose to intervene in.”

The law was passed on June 22 and is expected to come into force by the end of the year.

The Online News Act was intended to help the industry survive, as declining advertising revenues contributed to the cutbacks in Canada’s newsrooms. Google’s search engine has about 90% market share in the country, and social media platforms such as Facebook are important drivers of digital traffic.

Michael Geist is Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa and Chair of the Canadian Research Commission on Internet and Electronic Commerce Law. He calls the new law “bad for everyone.”

Geist told CTV National News on Thursday, “I don’t think this is good for the company because the search capabilities of Canada and Google News aren’t going to be as good. Clearly for Canadian news outlets that rely heavily on Google and Meta. It’s bad for you,” he said. Referral traffic…and bad for Canadians, because access to search results isn’t as good. “

Geist said the bill was also fundamentally “disastrous” for the government.

“The government made a big bet, apparently based on the idea that this was just a big bluff. I don’t think they read the air,” he said. “I don’t think you fully understand the current situation, and you have jeopardized the Internet’s fundamental principle of the free flow of information through links.”

With files from Canadian Press

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