Less than a week after Meta announced it would start pulling news links from Facebook and Instagram to audiences in Canada, Google announced today it will be doing the same. Both Meta and Facebook are blaming the passage of Bill C-18 into law by the Canadian government.
The law, also known as the Online News Act, will require tech companies like Meta and Google to make deals with news media so they can post links to their content on their services.
In a blog post, Kent Walker, the President of Global Affairs for Google and its parent company Alphabet, stated:
The Government of Canada has enacted a new law called Bill C-18 (the Online News Act), requiring two companies to pay for simply showing links to news, something that everyone else does for free. The unprecedented decision to put a price on links (a so-called “link tax”) creates uncertainty for our products and exposes us to uncapped financial liability simply for facilitating Canadians’ access to news from Canadian publishers. We have been saying for over a year that this is the wrong approach to supporting journalism in Canada and may result in significant changes to our products.
Walker added that just before the passage of Bill C-18, the Canadian government did reach out to negotiate a compromise. He stated:
In that discussion, we asked for clarity on financial expectations platforms face for simply linking to news, as well as a specific, viable path towards exemption based on our programs to support news and our commercial agreements with publishers.
While we appreciate the Government’s acknowledgement that our concerns were reasonable and confirmation that the law will not apply until they adopt implementing regulations, they have not provided us with sufficient certainty that the regulatory process will be able to resolve structural issues with the legislation (such as forced payment for links and uncapped financial liability).
Google says that when the law does go into effect, it will remove news links from Canadian news outlets from its Search, News, and Discover products in Canada. in an FAQ page about this decision, Google says Canadian residents can still "access all news sites by typing the outlet's web address directly into their browser or through apps, newsletters, aggregators and other channels." It also won't affect any Google Search links for SOS alerts for disasters like forest fires, earthquakes, and other similar situations.