Alphabet’s Google and the Canadian government have reached an agreement, over a dispute about a new law that demands payments to local news publishers.

The Guardian newspaper reported that Google has resolved its dispute with the Canadian government over its Online News Act. Google agreed to pay C$100m (US$73.6m) annually to news publishers in the country.

The agreement leaves Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Platforms as the only remaining major tech platform still locked in dispute with the Canadian government over the law. Both Google and Meta had previously warned the Canadian law was far more burdensome than similar laws in Australia and Europe.

Online news act

The Online News Act had, despite tech opposition, was passed in June and is be implemented on 19 December.

The law makes big companies share advertising revenue with local news publishers.

Google previously stated that Canada’s Online News Act “remains unworkable” and warned it would remove news links to Canadian news sites from its search and other products before the December deadline.

Meta’s Facebook however was not willing to wait that long, and in August 2023 it began blocking news in the country on its platform.

In response to Meta’s blocking of news, the Canadian government said it would halt advertising on Facebook and Instagram. The government also insisted that both Meta and Alphabet would have to comply with the new law, but both firms did not back down.

The Canadian government frustration at Meta’s active blocking of news boiled over, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blasted Facebook for “putting corporate profits ahead of people’s safety” during the wildfire crisis in Canada.

Trudeau also said that Facebook’s move to block news content is “bad for democracy” in the long run.

Government move

Then in September the Canadian government unveiled its proposed regulations, as it sought to address Google and Facebook’s concerns about the law.

Google said at the time it was reviewing the proposed regulations “to assess whether they resolve the serious structural issues” with the law.

Now the Guardian has reported that Canada and Google have reached a deal to keep links to news stories in search results and for the tech giant to pay $73.6m annually to news publishers in the country.

“Following weeks of productive discussions, I am happy to announce that we have found a path forward with Google for the implementation of the Online News Act,” Canada’s heritage minister Pascale St-Onge was quoted as saying in a statement.

“Following extensive discussions, we are pleased that the Government of Canada has committed to addressing our core issues with Bill C-18,” Kent Walker, Alphabet’s president of global affairs, was quoted by the Guardian as saying in a statement. “We will continue sending valuable traffic to Canadian publishers.”

As part of the agreement with Canada, Google will annually contribute C$100m, indexed to inflation, to news businesses.

Google it should be remembered had in 2020 created its News Showcase product to pay news publishers in different countries for their news.

“Google has agreed to properly support journalists, including local journalism,” Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau was quoted as saying. “Unfortunately, Meta continues to completely abdicate any responsibility towards democratic institutions.”

St-Onge said the deal with Google shows that the new law works, and called on Meta to explain its decision to block news sharing in Canada.

She added Canada would be able to reopen the agreement with Google in the future if there are better agreements reached anywhere else in the world.

Last month, Google reportedly reached an agreement to pay a group of German publishers 3.2m euros ($3.5m) a year for its publication of their news content.

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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