Google is testing blocking access to Canadian news outlets in response to bill C-18 being passed. This Canadian law would have required platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay news publishers for their content.
Google has confirmed to Reuters that the tests were for the “Online News Act” for 4% of Canadian users.
“We are briefly testing possible product responses to Bill C-18. This will only impact a small number of Canadian users. A spokesperson for Google said that they run thousands of tests every year to evaluate any possible changes to Search.
These tests “limit the visibility to Canadian and international news to varying levels.”
News publishers would have to be paid by the parent company of Facebook, Meta, and Alphabet.
YouTube has repeatedly criticized the bill and ran ads opposing it. This would limit the reach for independent creators as well as the obvious cost to Google of web traffic or money if the publisher is not paid.
It is expected that large social media platforms will be forced to pay news publishers to push these outlets higher up in search results. This is despite them already being treated as authoritative news sources under search algorithms.
A professor of internet law calls the bill a “shakedown” because it provides hyperlinks. However, an analysis has shown that major Canadian broadcasters (CBC and Bell) could make almost $250 million annually under the proposed legislation. An additional $81 million would be distributed to online and newspaper companies.
The report shows that Canada’s national broadcaster, CBC, receives $329m annually, but receives consistent boosts like $21 million in April 2021.
To compensate for the revenue loss from delayed Olympic ads in 2020, the government allocated a budget of nearly $1.1 billion to public broadcasters.
Canadian taxpayers also regularly fund major news outlets, as was the case in 2018, when nearly $600 million was given to all major newspapers and news networks.
Nearly $90 million was donated to Canada Media Fund in 2020 for a COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund.
In 2021, $61 million was also provided by the Trudeau government to a broad-based list of publishers through what was known as “Emergency Election Funding.”