Google Begins Removal Of California News Ahead Of Proposed Law

Alphabet’s Google has begun showing lawmakers in California the consequences of its pending legislation known as Assembly Bill 886, otherwise known as the California Journalism Preservation Act or CJPA.

Last year the Californian state government had introduced the California Journalism Preservation Act, which would require social media platforms such as Google and Meta, to pay a monthly “journalism usage fee” for work appears on their services.

The fee would be determined via an arbitration process decided by a panel of three judges – based on the social media platform’s monthly ad revenue.

Image credit: Jonny Gios/Unsplash

California Journalism Preservation Act

The bill passed the Assembly in July last year and is currently being considered by the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

The California Senate would have to pass it later this year for it to become law.

Meta Platforms has already issued a stark warning to California officials, saying may it withdraw news altogether in its home state.

Now Google in a blog post last week wrote that the California Journalism Preservation Act is putting support of the news ecosystem at risk, calling it a “link tax” that would require Google to pay for simply connecting Californians to news articles.

“We have long said that this is the wrong approach to supporting journalism,” wrote Jaffer Zaidi Google VP, Global News Partnerships. “If passed, CJPA may result in significant changes to the services we can offer Californians and the traffic we can provide to California publishers.”

“By helping people find news stories, we help publishers of all sizes grow their audiences at no cost to them. CJPA would up-end that model,” wrote Zaidi. “It would favour media conglomerates and hedge funds – who’ve been lobbying for this bill – and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content.”

“CJPA would also put small publishers at a disadvantage and limit consumers’ access to a diverse local media ecosystem,” he added.

Short-term test

Zaidi wrote that the uncapped financial exposure created by CJPA would be unworkable. “If enacted, CJPA in its current form would create a level of business uncertainty that no company could accept,” he wrote.

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users,” wrote Zaidi. “The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

“Until there’s clarity on California’s regulatory environment, we’re also pausing further investments in the California news ecosystem, including new partnerships through Google News Showcase, our product and licensing program for news organizations, and planned expansions of the Google News Initiative,” Zaidi wrote.

Other countries

Google’s actions here are not new, as it and Meta have carried out similar moves in Australia and more recently in Canada.

Australia was the first country in the world to actually introduce publisher compensation laws.

Both Alphabet and Meta had protested to Australian officials when that country sought to pass the ground breaking law back in 2020 and 2021.

The Australian government however took no notice of the protests from Meta and Alphabet, and pressed ahead with the legislation.

Facebook responded and then pulled all local and international news on its platforms (including Instagram) in Australia, before restoring it after the Australian government agreed to change parts of its ‘media bargaining law’.

Meta then made deals with news publishers in Australia, France and other countries.

Alphabet signs similar agreements via the Google News Showcase.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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