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Google warns online news bill could lead to it subsidizing biased news outlets


Google warns that the federal government’s online news bill could force it to subsidize non-authoritative or biased news sources, such as Russia’s state-sponsored Sputnik news agency.

But the organization representing Canada’s news media industry says the bill’s language is strict and specifically excludes media that promotes the interests of an organization.

Google argues that the bill’s definition of an eligible news source is so broad that non-professional media outlets with two or more reporters in Canada, including those funded by foreign states, could be eligible for the giants’ payment. technology.

The Online News Bill, inspired by similar legislation in Australia, is designed to support Canada’s news industry and combat the dissemination of news from biased or unreliable sources.

The bill, known as C-18 in Parliament, would force tech giants such as Google and Meta to pay for the reuse of information produced by Canadian news outlets.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, pictured here February 2 in Ottawa, introduced the government’s online news bill. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The proposed legislation would also prevent tech giants from penalizing or privileging news organizations with which they have agreements.

But Google says it could affect how it ranks news on its search engine and moderates content.

After the start of the war in Ukraine, she began to limit the visibility of the Russian state-controlled media organization RT, including on the Google News search tool.

Definition too broad, according to the company

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 the tech giant supports the central purpose of the bill, but fears the legislation, as drafted, will have unintended consequences, including making it pay news companies that do not meet journalistic standards.

This could potentially include two people who have created a digital news organization from their basement, foreign state-sponsored news groups with an office in Canada or news outlets with a far left bias or far right.

“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 qualifying information undertakings and ‘undue preference’ provisions which, when put into practice, could result in mandatory payment for content that does not meet basic journalistic standards.”

But the president of News Media Canada, which represents the country’s news media industry, said the bill was carefully crafted.

“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 urgent legislation before the winter break. ‘summer.”

Regulation left to CRTC

Canadian Heritage said in a statement that “it is not the government’s role to decide what is and what is not online news.”

“There is an objective set of criteria, removed from political decision-making, for determining eligible news outlets. A free and independent press is essential to democracy,” he said.

When it announced Bill C-18, the federal government said the legislation would ensure Canadians have access to quality factual information in an era of growing misinformation and public mistrust.

The broadcast regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, will be given the task of designating what qualifies as a news organization.

According to the bill, to qualify, a news organization would have to be designated as a Canadian journalism organization under the Income Tax Act or produce news content primarily on matters of general interest, and operate and employ two or more journalists in Canada.

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