(LifeSiteNews) – Tech giant Google is blocking access to some online news content for many Canadians in what it says is a test run to prepare for a federal Liberal government internet censorship bill that might soon become law.
Google, according to a Canadian Press report yesterday, 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 light of 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,” which 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.”
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.
Geist also noted that Google itself already has a history in blocking news due to government regulations.
“Google shut down Google News in Spain for eight years after that country passed copyright laws that raised liability concerns for the inclusion of snippets. It conducted the similar testing of blocking news content in search in Australia. More recently, it stopped its Google News service in Czechia as a result of the local copyright law implementation,” Geist noted.
According to the bill’s text, news outlet that are given the label of a “qualified Canadian journalism organization” could be given favorable rankings on Big Tech platforms and would even be entitled to “fair compensation” whenever their news content is shared on such sites.
Even social media giant Facebook has blasted the bill, warning the government it will lead to news content being inaccessible for Canadians.
“If this draft legislation becomes law, creating globally unprecedented forms of financial liability for news links or content, we may be forced to consider whether we continue to allow the sharing of news content on Facebook in Canada as defined under the Online News Act,” said Marc Dinsdale, who serves as Facebook’s head of media partnerships for Canada.
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.
“For all practical purposes, the way Canadians consume media will have the clock set back 30 years [with Bill C-18]. No more reading your news on your phone or tablet in the morning. Get ready to pony up for a daily, old-fashioned physical newspaper subscription for your morning read, and book an hour off after dinner to sit down and watch the nightly newscast on your television,” Fildebrandt wrote in a blog post last December.
Bill C-18 is not the only piece of legislation from the Trudeau government that deals with internet censorship.
Bill C-11, titled An Act to Amend the Broadcasting Act and to Make Related and Consequential Amendments to other Acts, earlier this month passed the Senate. An amended version of the controversial internet censorship bill targeting online video content is now back before the House of Commons, who must give it their OK.
Critics have long warned that Bill C-11 will stifle free speech online, and even Big Tech giants YouTube and Apple, who both have a history of censorship, have urged the Senate to stall passage of the bill.