Google announced today that it won’t pull links to Canadian news outlets after all, thanks to an agreement with the government of Canada over the contentious Online News Act or Bill C-18. Google and Alphabet president of global affairs Kent Walker published a statement saying that “following extensive discussions, we are pleased that the Government of Canada has committed to addressing our core issues with Bill C-18,” a rule designed to make large web platforms pay news outlets for using their content. While the exact terms have yet to be published, Walker says the government addressed Google’s previous concerns about creating “uncapped financial liability” for linking to articles, and a report indicates it will pay millions of dollars to publishers as part of the deal.
As a result, “while we work with the government through the exemption process based on the regulations that will be published shortly, we will continue sending valuable traffic to Canadian publishers,” Walker says. The previous plan would have excluded these links from Google Search, News, and Discover.
Walker writes that the negotiations included establishing a streamlined exemption process for companies that hit a “clear commitment threshold” — rumored in a CBC News report to involve a roughly $100 million annual payout to local news companies, less than the $172 million federal officials initially sought. According to CBC, Bill C-18’s final regulatory language will let Google negotiate with a single group that represents media organizations, limiting its need to work with numerous individual outlets. “After months of holding strong, of demonstrating our commitment to local journalism, to strong independent journalists getting paid for their work ... Google has agreed to properly support journalists, including local journalism,” the outlet quoted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as telling reporters.
Google and Meta were two of the primary targets of the Online News Act, which passed earlier this year and goes into effect in December. The rule, which Google has dubbed a “link tax,” is one of several national attempts to transfer money from large tech companies to news organizations. While both companies opposed the rule, Meta has taken a harder stance on it, removing news from Facebook and Instagram in Canada, while Google said it was making last-ditch attempts to negotiate. “Unlike search engines, we do not proactively pull news from the internet to place in our users’ feeds and we have long been clear that the only way we can reasonably comply with the Online News Act is by ending news availability for people in Canada,” said Meta spokesperson Lisa Laventure in response to today’s news.
Both companies ended up cutting a deal with Australian news outlets in 2021 in response to a similar law there.
Update 6:05PM ET: Added statement from Meta.