Trudeau Rejects Compromise with Meta and Google on Digital News Law

In response to attempts by Meta and Google to negotiate terms over a Liberal legislative proposal that would obligate them to compensate for Canadian journalism, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains uncompromising.

Trudeau denounced the strong-arm strategies of Meta and Google on Wednesday, emphasizing that his administration will ensure these corporations don’t undermine Canada’s democracy or pose a risk to its domestic media sector, reports BNN Bloomberg.

Meta declared its intentions last week to experiment with blocking some news content access for a minority of Instagram and Facebook users in Canada.

The social media giant warned that it may permanently discontinue news content in Canada if Bill C-18, the bill that mandates tech behemoths to pay for any repurposing or linking of news content, gets the green light from Parliament.

Earlier this year, Google also restricted news access on its search engine for a small fraction of its Canadian audience, hinting at its willingness to find a middle ground with the Liberal government.

“Internet juggernauts choosing to deprive Canadians of local news access rather than pay a reasonable fee constitutes a grave issue. Now, they’re turning to intimidation to achieve their objectives, but it won’t be successful,” Trudeau declared in a press briefing.

He added, “We are committed to ensuring these highly profitable firms bolster our democracy, not erode it.”

Major publishers have informed a Senate committee presently examining the bill that they stand to lose millions if Google and Meta block their content.

The online news bill has already sailed through the House of Commons and is poised for Senate approval as early as this month.

If the bill gets enacted, both firms will have to broker deals with news publishers for compensating them for news content that helps the tech companies earn revenue.

Both companies contend that news contributes minimally to their revenues, leading them to contemplate discontinuing local news on their platforms.

Meta discloses that news constitutes approximately three per cent of Facebook content, while Google claims that less than two per cent of searches relate to news, as users seem more interested in recipes than articles.

However, each firm has proposed amendments in the Senate, targeting revisions to the arbitration section of the bill and modifications to provide clarity about the publishers they would need to negotiate with.

Google pointed out, for instance, that the current draft of the bill would force it into agreements with community and campus broadcasters who might not even generate news content and have no obligation to follow a code of ethics.

Google spokesperson, Shay Purdy, assured in a statement on Wednesday that the company is proposing “reasonable and pragmatic solutions” to boost its investment in Canadian news.

She stated, “We are gravely concerned about the trajectory we’re on and are striving to engage constructively to evade an adverse outcome for Canadians.”

Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez, has claimed that the bill is already balanced and has invited Meta and Google to reach out to him directly for discussion.

Rodriguez was scheduled to testify before a Senate committee on Wednesday evening.

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