Google and access to news content
Google is blocking access to news content in Canada in a five-week trial that is affecting about 4% of users in the country. According to reports, the measure comes as Canada’s Senate considers a bill that would force big Internet companies to pay publishers for displaying links to their stories. Google has stated that it may simply block them instead; the Canadian government, however, maintains that Google’s actions amount to intimidation. Google however denied that it was trying to intimidate anyone and stated that they wanted to demonstrate the harm of the proposed legislation. In the past two decades, most of the revenue of news organisations have disappeared online. News organisations now accuse search engines and social networks of profiting from content that is not theirs. Google and Facebook retort that they merely display links and a few lines of text and that by doing so they drive traffic to publishers (who in any case can opt out if they choose).
Google has recently blocked access to news content in Canada in response to a bill that would force big internet companies to pay publishers for displaying links to their stories. This is part of a larger effort by governments to squeeze money out of Silicon Valley and into local media companies.
Google’s News Showcase is a five-week trial that will spend about $1bn in 2020-23 on licensing content from more than 2,000 news organisations in more than 20 countries. The trial affects about 4% of users in the country. Facebook’s News Tab has also been scaled back, but the company estimates that it sends 1.9bn clicks a year to Canadian media, publicity it values at C$230m.
Google and Facebook are profiting from content that is not theirs, driving traffic to publishers, and sending clicks to Canadian media. Furthermore, search engines are getting better at displaying information without referring visitors to external sources. This could also mean that AI-search companies should be made to license the content they regurgitate.
News organisations have seen most of their advertising revenue disappear online, and Google and Facebook have set up mechanisms for funnelling ‘support’ to media companies. Australia’s law has reportedly been worth about A$200m in the scheme’s first year.