Google Removes California News Links in Response to Potential Pay-for-News Legislation

What is trending on Google 4 August 2022

Google Removes California News Links in Response to Potential Pay-for-News Legislation

On Friday, Google started to exclude California news websites from appearing in search results for some users, experimenting with this approach as a potential response to a proposed state law. This law would mandate that platforms like Google compensate media companies for linking to their content.

In a blog post announcing this action, Google described it as a “short-term test for a small percentage of users … to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.” The tech giant also stated its intention to halt new investments in the California news industry, which includes collaborations with news organizations and a product licensing program.

What is trending on Google 4 August 2022

“By helping people find news stories, we help publishers of all sizes grow their audiences at no cost to them. (This bill) would up-end that model,” Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s vice president for global news partnerships, explained in the blog post. The California Legislature is currently debating a bill that would require major tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to share a portion of their advertising revenue with media companies for using their content, with the specifics of these payments to be determined by a three-judge panel via arbitration.

The proposed legislation seeks to address the decline in journalism jobs and the closure of news outlets, which have been prevalent as traditional media struggles to adapt to the digital economy. According to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, over 2,500 newspapers have shut down in the U.S. since 2005. Specifically, in California, more than 100 news organizations have disappeared in the last decade, as noted by Democratic Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, who authored the bill.

“This is a bill about basic fairness — it’s about ensuring that platforms pay for the content they repurpose,” Wicks stated. “We are committed to continuing negotiations with Google and all other stakeholders to secure a brighter future for California journalists and ensure that the lights of democracy stay on.”

The bill garnered bipartisan support in the state Assembly last year, despite strong resistance and lobbying from prominent tech companies. It must still pass in the California Senate later this year to become law.

Proponents of the bill argue that it would create a fairer playing field between large digital platforms and news publishers, offering crucial support to local news organizations that depend on Google for content distribution in the digital age. While Google’s search engine anchors a digital advertising empire generating over $200 billion a year, news publishers have seen a significant decline in advertising revenue over recent decades.

However, opponents, including Google, Meta, and some independent newsrooms, criticize the bill as a “link tax” that could disproportionately benefit large, out-of-state newspaper chains and hedge funds, potentially harming local news outlets further. Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of news, emphasized to state lawmakers last December that Google has already made considerable contributions to local journalism, including financial grants and training for nearly 1,000 local publications in 2023.

Gingras described Google’s search engine as “the largest newsstand on Earth,” facilitating over 24 billion connections to news websites per month and holding roughly 90% of the market share. He noted that the traffic generated allows publishers to earn revenue through advertising or gain new subscribers, estimating that each click from Google translates to roughly 5 to 7 cents for a news website.

Google’s strategy of temporarily removing links to news sites is part of a broader pattern of tech companies resisting regulation. When Canada and Australia implemented similar laws to support journalism, Meta restricted access to news content from Canadian publishers on its platforms and issued warnings to U.S. and California legislators. Google had also threatened action in Canada, but ultimately agreed to pay 100 million Canadian dollars to the news industry there in November.

Experts argue that while news publishers would face difficulties and potentially have to cut jobs if Google completely blocked news content, Google would also suffer financially.

“Google would be damaging itself enormously if it decided to stop using newspaper content,” said Brandon Kressin, an antitrust attorney representing News Media Alliance and other publishers, during a December hearing. He suggested that such a move would be counterproductive for Google.

The ongoing debate about Google’s dominance in search and its potential to restrict access to news comes amid significant legal challenges. The U.S. Justice Department has accused Google of abusing its power to hinder competition and innovation. The department is set to present closing arguments next month in the largest antitrust trial in 25 years, with a federal judge expected to make a ruling later this year.

Additionally, following another antitrust trial concluded in December, a federal jury determined that Google had used its Android app store to create an illegal monopoly, which restricted consumer choice and increased Google’s profits through high in-app purchase commissions. A hearing to discuss necessary changes following this verdict is also scheduled for next month.

To further support local journalism, California has launched initiatives like a $25 million state-funded program in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, which aims to place 40 early-career journalists in local newsrooms annually. Another proposal currently under consideration would expand tax credits for local news organizations this year.

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Pooja Chauhan

Pooja Chauhan: Your Source for Entertainment and Box Office NewsPooja Chauhan is a passionate writer and dedicated journalist specializing in delivering the latest updates and insights from the world of entertainment and box office. With a keen eye for detail and a deep love for cinema, Pooja brings her readers accurate and engaging coverage of all things related to movies, celebrities, and the dynamic world of showbiz. Her commitment to keeping her audience well-informed and entertained makes her a valuable voice in the realm of entertainment journalism. When she's not busy uncovering the latest scoops, Pooja enjoys exploring classic films and indulging in creative writing." Contact us:

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