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Google, Meta could pull news over Bill C-18: What the fallout may mean for Canadians

With Google promising to remove Canadian news from its platforms in response to a new federal law, critics say the move could affect media literacy in Canada, while opponents of the legislation argue it was flawed to begin with.

Google on Thursday said it would remove news from Canadian outlets from its platforms and end existing deals with local Canadian publishers over the Liberal government's Online News Act, formerly known as Bill C-18, which would force big tech companies to negotiate compensation deals with media outlets.

The bill became law on June 22 and should come into force in the next six months.

The actions by Google would include the removal of news links from its search engine, as well as Google News and Google Discover, for only Canadian publishers and readers.

The company would also end Google News Showcase in Canada, which it uses to license news from more than 150 local publishers.

Canadians would still be able to find news from international outlets.

"It will basically be like Google doesn't even know that it's there," tech analyst Carmi Levy told CTV's Your Morning on Friday.

Along with Google, Meta says it too will stop the sharing of news on Facebook and Instagram for Canadian users.

Supporters of the law say it is intended to level the playing field around online advertising, which is dominated by tech giants such as Google and Meta.

Google's parent company Alphabet and Meta make most of their revenue through advertising, which media companies also have traditionally relied on.

The federal government says Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of the online ad market in Canada.

"But the reality is there's still some runway here where saner heads can prevail and hopefully they can arrive at some agreement where everyone is happy and they don't have to do what they've threatened to do," Levy said.

Tech and cybersecurity expert Ritesh Kotak told CTV News Channel on Friday that the removal of news from Google and Meta's platforms could lead users to rely on unverified stories, making "deciphering fact from fiction" that much more difficult.

"This is a serious problem for news organizations and also members of the public," he said, adding that news outlets should do more to promote their own platforms.


Dwayne Winseck, a professor in the school of journalism and communication at Carlton University, called the move by Google "rather scorched Earth and I would even say a reckless approach to a regulatory framework and a law that has been devised through a democratic process."

Google and Meta have already struck deals with a number of news outlets in Canada, but Winseck told CTV News Channel on Thursday that these are "shrouded in secrecy" and "wrapped in iron-clad NDAs" or non-disclosure agreements.

"I think one of the benefits of this bill, even though terribly flawed, is that it would help to bring these privately negotiated deals out into the open and subject them to at least some public oversight to see that they're fair and reasonable," he said.

Although other search engines exist, such as Microsoft's Bing and the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo, Winseck said they don't have the same economies of scale as Google.


Independent Senator and former journalist Paula Simons argues that C-18 is "based on a false premise that somehow Google and Facebook have stolen the news."

"The problem isn't that Meta and Alphabet stole the news, it's that Meta and Alphabet stole the advertisers," she told CTV News Channel on Thursday.

Meta's president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, has said that C-18 is based on a "fundamentally flawed premise."

"Meta does not benefit unfairly from people sharing links to news content on our platform," he said in a statement from May. "The reverse is true. Publishers choose to share their content because it benefits them to do so, whereas it isn't particularly valuable to us at all."

Simons described the problem as one where, if the law works, the Canadian media ecosystem would become completely beholden to two American "behemoths" that already curate and control much of what people see.

"It would have ended independent reportage in Canadian journalism and for that reason — not because I'm in the bag for Facebook and Google, let us understand — I've opposed this bill from the beginning," she said.

Many have drawn similarities to Australia, which passed similar legislation in 2021.

Prior to that, Facebook temporarily banned news on its platform before striking a deal with the government on certain aspects of the law.

Rupert Murdoch's media empire News Corp, while it opposed the legislation, later reached a deal with Facebook on sharing news.

While the law, known as the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, is said to have generated more than US$140 million a year for Australian news outlets, the U.S. journalism school Poynter reported in August 2022, no digital platforms have actually been designated under the code, with Google and Facebook instead reaching voluntary agreements with news organizations.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission argues that the "existence of the code and the threat of designation is having the appropriate and intended impact."

However, as Poynter also points out, a union representing thousands of Australian journalists said the current bargaining process lacks transparency, including how much is being given to media organizations and how that money is used.

While Google and Facebook are within their rights to stop allowing news on their platforms, Simons said all sides are posturing in a "kabuki-like" form of political theatre.

"There was wide all-party support for this legislation," she said. "Let's just say this legislation is a mistake."

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press Top Stories

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