A week after Bill C-18 received Royal Assent, Google confirmed today that it has taken the “extremely difficult decision” to remove links to Canadian news from its Search, News and Discover products in Canada.
The company’s president of Global Affairs, Kent Walker said in a blog post, “Bill C-18 has become law and remains unworkable. The Government has not given us reason to believe that the regulatory process will be able to resolve structural issues with the legislation.”
This decision comes after Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez held multiple 11th-hour talks with the tech giant following the passing of the bill, with the aim of coming to a resolution and preventing the platform from pulling out.
He expressed his discontent with Google’s decision in a tweet yesterday, “Big tech would rather spend money changing their platforms to block news from Canadians instead of paying a small share of the billions they make in advertising dollars. Canadians won’t be bullied. Big tech isn’t bigger than Canada.”
The company said that during these discussions it asked, among other things, for clarity on financial expectations platforms face for simply linking to news. One of the amendments proposed by the Senate aimed to address this, but Rodriguez rejected it.
Google also said it repeatedly offered feedback and solutions that would Bill C-18 more workable for both the platforms and the publishers, and even proposed an alternative funding model similar to the Google News Showcase program that, it said, covered more than 150 news publications across Canada.
“Last year alone, we linked to Canadian news publications more than 3.6 billion times — at no charge — helping publishers make money through ads and new subscriptions,” stated Walker. “This referral traffic from links has been valued at C$250 million annually. We’re willing to do more; we just can’t do it in a way that breaks the way that the web and search engines are designed to work, and that creates untenable product and financial uncertainty.”
Meta also confirmed ending news availability on Facebook and Instagram, and has reportedly started ending its existing agreements with Canadian publishers.
University of Ottawa internet law professor Michael Geist said the exits of the two platforms will have “lasting and enormously damaging consequences for Canadians and represents a remarkable own-goal by Rodriguez, who has managed to take millions away from the news sector and left everyone in a far worse position than if he had done nothing at all.”
Google said it plans to end news availability when the law takes effect, which is 180 days following its passing.
Updated 6/30/2023- 8.30 AM with Minister Rodriguez comments