Minister Stunned by Google Decision to Remove News Links [VIDEO]
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez was caught off guard by Google’s announcement of its intent to stop featuring links to Canadian news outlets.
In a Thursday interview on CTV’s Power Play, Rodriguez expressed his surprise at the tech giant’s reaction. “Well, Meta, I always said it was complicated; Google we still have conversations as recent as this morning,” said the minister. “I’m a bit surprised by Google’s reaction,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday, Google declared its decision to remove Canadian news from its platforms and discontinue existing contracts with local publishers in response to the Liberal government’s Online News Act, known as Bill C-18.
Bill C-18 mandates Google and Meta to financially compensate media outlets for any content shared, previewed, or otherwise repurposed on their platforms. As a consequence, Meta has also announced its withdrawal of Canadian news from Facebook and Instagram, while severing ties with local publishers, including a program to promote emerging journalists.
In defence of the bill, Rodriguez said, We cannot have tech giants as powerful as they are with big lawyers and everything coming here and telling members of parliament and the government elected by the people, ‘This is what you’re going to do,’” said the minister, adding “We can’t accept that. We’re a sovereign nation.”
Despite the law not yet being operational, Rodriguez said he was shocked by Google’s announcement, indicating that dialogue with the company continues, and that some consensus has been achieved.
Speaking on the effect of digital monopolies on newsrooms, Rodriguez lamented, “Around 500 newsrooms closed their doors across the country… and they will continue closing their doors.” He added, “The status quo is not working because the money is going to the tech giants.”
Rodriguez also criticized Google and Meta in an email to the National Post on Thursday, calling them “deeply irresponsible and out of touch … especially when they make billions of dollars off of Canadian users.”
He said big tech companies “would rather spend money to change their platforms to block Canadians from accessing good quality and local news instead of paying their fair share to news organizations.”
“Hundreds of newsrooms have closed because billions in advertising revenue they used to rely on has shifted to Google and Facebook. This status quo is not working. The Online News Act levels the playing field by putting the power of Big Tech in check,” said the minister.
Bill C-18 has also drawn criticism from industry experts like Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and the Canada Research Chair in internet and e-commerce law. He blasted the legislation as “disastrous” for the government and “bad for everyone”.
In Geist’s view, the government has jeopardized a fundamental principle of the internet – the free flow of information through linking, based on the assumption that Google and Meta were merely bluffing.