Google is swinging against a law proposed by the Canadian government that would force search engines to pay publishers to list content.
Canada’s proposed Online News Act would force tech companies to enter into deals with news organizations for the content appearing on their platforms.
It is modeled after legislation introduced in Australia last year. If the bill is passed and becomes law, it could encourage more countries to take a similar approach.
Sabrina Geremia, Vice President and Managing Director of Google Canada, set aside the Online News Act proposal in a blog post.
Google’s main point of contention is the aforementioned “link tax,” which the search company claims will make the news industry worse.
In an era where dwindling profits are rapidly closing down newsrooms, a stream of revenue from Google could help keep more publishers in business.
So why is this a bad thing?
Google argues that the proposal does not clearly define what qualifies as a news organization. This can result in rewards for “ineligible” publishers.
In addition, the Online News Act would prevent tech companies from penalizing or preferring news organizations they have tied up with.
In other words, Google’s ability to rank search results for news items would be limited.
What started in Australia is reaching Canada and it may come to your country further. Here’s more information about how link tax can potentially affect search results.
What is a Link Tax?
Google is equating the money it pays to Canadian news organizations with a government-imposed tax.
The “tax” will not be paid to the government, however, which will be paid to publishers every time Google links a searcher to their content.
News organizations will be eligible to receive compensation as long as they regularly employ two or more journalists in Canada.
Broader definitions of eligible news businesses could compel Google and other tech companies to compensate publishers that do not meet basic journalism standards.
For example, outlets that intentionally spread misinformation can benefit from a link tax if they meet the simple criteria of having two Canadian journalists on the payroll.
As written today, the proposed Online News Act would prevent Google from giving any preference to publishers it contracts with.
This means that Google will not be able to rank those publishers’ webpages higher than others, even if they are of higher quality or more relevant to a searcher’s query.
Possible issues due to link tax
Google claims that Link Tax will “break” search results for everyone.
The issue isn’t that Google is being forced to pay publishers, it’s about the types of publishers that can eventually get paid.
Technically, a publisher who advances conspiracy theories about current events may be eligible for compensation if they employ at least two Canadian writers.
On top of that, Google won’t be able to degrade those publishers in Canadian search results. The Online News Act states that publishers who receive payment from Google cannot be penalized or given preference.
If the bill passes as of today, it would really break the way Google is designed to function.
In the long run, this has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for laws that other countries can apply to Google.
The bill is currently being reviewed by the House of Commons of Canada. Google says it intends to work with the Canadian government in the coming weeks to refine the law.