Reacting to Canada’s Online News Act, which is currently under discussion at the Senate, Google has decided to block access to news for some Canadians as a ‘test’ to work through the law that requires tech giants to pay for local journalism content used on their platforms.
A Google spokesperson told media, that the company is "briefly testing potential product responses. We run thousands of tests each year to assess any potential changes to Search.”
Canada’s new bill aims to help local news sector that have been adversely impacted by the online advertising dominance of the likes of Facebook and Google. Over 450 news outlets closed in Canada since 2008 as digital platforms took over the space advertising space.
The development follows a similar Australian law initiated in 2021 that led to a temporary shutting down of Facebook news feeds over the same issue. Big tech firms strongly opposed the Australian legislation initially, fearing it would threaten their business models, but with amendments it was easily passed by lawmakers.
Canada’s Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez who has been vocal about the issue, commented on Twitter saying, "It's disappointing to hear that Google is trying to block access to news sites. 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."
Google has signed agreements with French newspapers to pay for their content, after the EU introduced in 2019 a law on "neighboring rights."
Canada's news media industry has pressed against Facebook and asked the government for more regulation of tech companies to compensate for the financial losses it has suffered as a result of Facebook and Google having gained greater market share of advertising.
Google has maintained that the Canadian law needs fixing and warned that "if unchanged, (it) could impact products Canadians use and rely on every day."