Google is running tests that block access to news for some Canadian users in response to a new bill that could force it and other large platforms like Meta’s Facebook to negotiate deals with news publishers to pay them for content, Reuters reports. The tests will reportedly impact less than four percent of Canadian users, run for around five weeks, and will “limit the visibility of Canadian and international news to varying degrees.”
The tests come in response to Canada’s Online News Act, also known as “Bill C-18,” which is currently being considered by the Canadian Senate, according to The Globe and Mail.
In a tweet, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said Canadians won’t be intimidated by Google’s behavior. “It’s disappointing to hear that Google is trying to block access to news sites,” he said. “Canadians won’t be intimidated. At the end of the day, all we’re asking the tech giants to do is compensate journalists when they use their work.”
“We’re briefly testing potential product responses to Bill C-18 that impact a very small percentage of Canadian users,” Google spokesperson Shay Purdy told Press Gazette in a statement. “We run thousands of tests each year to assess any potential changes to Search. We’ve been fully transparent about our concern that C-18 is overly broad and, if unchanged, could impact products Canadians use and rely on every day. We remain committed to supporting a sustainable future for news in Canada and offering solutions that fix Bill C-18.”
Like Google, Meta has also expressed opposition to Canada’s Online News Act, and has said it’s prepared to block news content in Canada in response. “Faced with adverse legislation that is based on false assumptions that defy the logic of how Facebook works, we feel it is important to be transparent about the possibility that we may be forced to consider whether we continue to allow the sharing of news content in Canada,” the head of media partnerships at Meta’s Canadian arm, Marc Dinsdale, told the Wall Street Journal last year.
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