Google has warned the federal government that its Online Information Act, known as Bill C-18 in Parliament, could inadvertently benefit non-authoritative news outlets and websites peddling biased accounts, such as the Russian state-sponsored Sputnik news agency. World News.
The tech giant argues that the bill’s definition of a qualifying news source is so broad and imprecise that it could require the company to pay lay media with two or more reporters in Canada, including those funded by foreign states, for their content.
Bill C-18, announced by the Liberal government last month, will force internet giants like social media apps and search engines to pay Canadian news media and journalists to share links to news. The proposed law is modeled after a similar legislature introduced in Australia last year.
The current wording of the bill classifies qualifying media as any group that is designated as a Canadian journalism organization under the Income Tax Act or that produces news content primarily on matters of general interest, operates in Canada and also employs two or more journalists in the country.
According to Google, the bill in its current form risks undermining the company’s moderation policies and how it ranks news on its search engine.
Google spokeswoman Lauren Skelly said the search engine could face “massive fines for presenting the most useful and trusted content to Canadians and for enforcing our own policies.”
Skelly said Google supports the spirit of the bill, but the tech giant fears the legislation, as written, will unwittingly put money in the pockets of news companies that don’t comply. not journalistic standards.
This could even include foreign state-sponsored news groups or biased news outlets with a far left or far right viewpoint.
“We have to believe that this is not an outcome intended by policymakers and hope to work with them to address those concerns,” Skelly said.
“The legislation as drafted uses an extremely broad definition of eligible news organizations and ‘undue preference’ provisions which, when put into practice, could result in compulsory payment for content that does not meet the basic journalistic standards.”
However, the president of News Media Canada, an organization that represents the local news media industry, said that was not the case and said the law was carefully drafted.
“This is very good legislation that specifically excludes media that promotes the interests of an organization as opposed to producing original news content of general interest,” said Paul Deegan.
“The bill will allow many small publishers to come together and negotiate content licensing deals with big tech companies. We urge parliamentarians from all parties to work together and pass this urgently needed legislation before the summer recess.
Canadian Heritage said in a statement that “it is not the government’s role to decide what is and is not online news.” Rather, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is responsible for determining what is considered media.
Last month, an executive at Facebook’s parent company Meta told a House of Commons public safety committee that the company had not ruled out banning news content on its platform in Canada. because of “some pretty serious concerns” about Bill C-18.
The bill has also been heavily criticized by other stakeholders, including Twitter, TikTok, Microsoft, Pinterest, the Business Software Alliance and even Canada’s largest telecommunications companies (Bell, Rogers, Telus, Cogeco, Quebecor and Shaw).