Google, which has expressed criticism of the Online News Act in the past, has previously indicated its consideration of a similar course of action. Both prominent Silicon Valley companies have pushed back against the bill, which seeks to provide support to the struggling Canadian news sector, which has witnessed the closure of numerous publications over the past decade.
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez tweeted enthusiastically, with a play on words, after the bill cleared its final hurdle in the Senate and moved closer to becoming law. Despite expressing regret over Meta’s decision to block news content, he pledged to defend Canadians against the dominance of tech giants.
Rodriguez’s office revealed that discussions had taken place with Facebook and Google this week, and they anticipated further dialogue regarding the new legislation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously criticized Meta for conducting a trial where Canadian news content was blocked for certain users, condemning the company for its “deeply irresponsible and out of touch” stance on refusing to compensate journalists for their work. He deemed opposition to the bill as “flawed and dangerous to our democracy and economy.”
In February, Google temporarily limited news access for Canadian users of its widely used search engine. Meta, in a statement on Thursday, confirmed that news content availability would cease for all users of Facebook and Instagram in Canada, while affirming that its other products and services in the country would remain unaffected.
Jenn Crider, a spokesperson for Google, stated that the company is doing everything possible to avoid an undesirable outcome and is actively seeking collaboration with the government to find a way forward.
Google has proposed amendments to the bill, but according to Crider, none of their concerns have been addressed thus far.
The new law mandates that digital giants establish fair commercial agreements with Canadian news outlets for the sharing of news and information on their platforms, or else face binding arbitration.
This legislation is based on Australia’s New Media Bargaining Code, a pioneering initiative that aims to compel Google and Meta to pay for news content on their platforms.
Australia had also accused these companies, which dominate online advertising, of siphoning funds away from traditional news organizations while utilizing their content without compensation.
Initially, major tech firms vehemently opposed the Australian legislation due to concerns about its impact on their business models. However, with the introduction of amendments, the bill easily passed through lawmakers.