US tech giant Google has blasted the Trudeau government over a federal plan to regulate online news, calling it a sweeping attempt to impose government control over the web.
Vice President and Managing Director of Google Canada Sabrina Geremia warned in a lengthy post on Monday that Bill C-18 – also known as the Online News Act – would give the federal government “sweeping new powers” to regulate news content.
“The bill gives the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) unprecedented, sweeping new powers to regulate every aspect of the Canadian news industry,” wrote Geremia.
“The CRTC would be responsible for determining who is a journalist, what is an eligible news business, and how much money will be directed to each entity — decisions far outside its expertise as a broadcast regulator.”
Google isn’t the only company that has gone on record to slam the Trudeau government’s plans to regulate online news. Meta (formerly known as Facebook) and Twitter have also called the legislation flawed.
Bill C-18 would, for example, require platforms to pay for news links. The CRTC would enforce mandatory bargaining, oversee conduct of parties involved and penalize those who don’t comply with the rules.
Meta recently threatened to block access to news in Canada on Facebook should the government go through with its plans.
“The short answer is, we’re still evaluating that legislation,” Meta’s Public Policy Manager for Canada Rachel Curran told parliamentarians in April. “We didn’t know the scope of it until it was tabled very recently. I will say we do have some pretty serious concerns.”
“I can’t comment definitively on our future action with respect to that bill. I would say we’re still looking at all of the options based on our evaluation of the legislation.”
In response to similar laws introduced by Australia last year, Meta shut down access to news content on Facebook. The move forced the Australian government to renegotiate certain parts of its internet regulation regime. Canada has cited Australia’s legislation as a basis on which its own proposed laws were founded on.
Geremia also went on to say that the Online News Act would “break Google search,” calling the bill a “link tax” that is not grounded in the reality of how the internet works and indexes content.
“The Online News Act would change this, requiring companies like Google to pay news businesses simply so that we can help you find what you’re looking for,” writes Geremia. “Canadians expect that when they search for information, they will have access to ALL the content the internet has to offer. Requiring payment for links risks limiting Canadians’ access to the information they depend on.”
Additionally, Geremia cited how the law would “create a lower standard for journalism in Canada” and could even open up subsidizing foreign news outlets known to spread propaganda and misinformation.