OTTAWA (LifeSiteNews) – After Tech giant Google blocked access to some online news content for many Canadians in what it said was a test run to prepare for a federal Liberal government internet censorship bill, Canadian MPs have now demanded the company’s CEO explain why this was done.
On Tuesday, the House of Commons Heritage Committee in a unanimous vote said it is requiring a multitude of Google officers be summoned to testify for the news content blocking fiasco.
Those being summoned include Google CEO Sundar Pichai; Richard Gingras, vice president of news; Sabrina Geremia, vice president and country manager; and Kent Walker, parent company Alphabet global affairs and chief legal officer.
Of note is that the summons only legally applies to people living in Canada. Only Geremia is in Canada, so it remains unclear if the other officers will abide by the summons.
Last week, news broke that Google confirmed that it was temporarily limiting news content access for just under 4% of Canadian users.
The limitation of news applies to the Google search engine as well as the Discover feature on Android devices that relays the news to smartphone users.
The tech giant says that all types of news content are being impacted by its test run, including Canadian news, which it says will run for about five weeks.
According to Google, its test run comes in response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Bill C-18 – also called the “Online News Act.” This bill would force social media companies to pay Canadian legacy media for news content shared on their platforms.
Shay Purdy, a Google spokesperson, noted that the company is “briefly testing potential product responses to Bill C-18” that impact a very “small percentage of Canadian users.”
Purdy said that Google is being “fully transparent about our concern that C-18 is overly broad,” adding that if left “unchanged” it could “impact products Canadians use and rely on every day.”
The motion to summon Google executives was brought forth by Liberal MP Chris Bittle, who said it was “troubling that Google was doing this in secret but was caught by the press.”
MPs also demand Google hand over communications it has relating to Bill C-18
On Tuesday, the Heritage Committee said Alphabet must provide, “any and all internal or external communication, including but not limited to emails, text or other forms of messages related to actions, plans to take or options considered, in relation to Canada’s Bill C-18, including but not limited to those in relation to the testing and blocking of news sites in Canada.”
MPs are also asking for a list of “all news organizations blocked by Google in Canada.”
Google has until 5 p.m. Thursday to provide the information to the committee.
Bill C-18 is now in its second reading in the Senate. Late last year, the Trudeau government decided to fast-track Bill C-18, rushing it through the House of Commons.
Critics have warned that Bill C-18 is an attack on independent media, with some cautioning it could lead to the “death” of the free press in Canada.
Dr. Michael Geist, law professor at University of Ottawa and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, commented in a blog post today about C-18.
“Bill C-18’s dangerous approach ascribes value to links where there isn’t any, regulates which platforms must pay in order to permit expression from their users, and dictates which sources are entitled to compensation,” Geist wrote.
According to Derek Fildebrandt, publisher and CEO of the independent Western Standard, Bill C-18 is a direct attack on media that does not get government funding and poses an existential threat to all independent reporting in the nation.
Bill C-18 is not the only piece of legislation from the Trudeau government that deals with internet censorship. There is also Bill C-11, titled An Act to Amend the Broadcasting Act and to Make Related and Consequential Amendments to other Acts.
In early February, the Senate passed an amended version of the controversial internet censorship Bill C-11, which targets online video content. The bill is now back before the House of Commons, which must give it an OK.
Critics have long warned that Bill C-11 will stifle free speech online, and even Big Tech giants YouTube and Apple, which both have a history of censorship, have urged the Senate to stall passage of the bill.