Google Takes Down Links to California News Sites Amid Proposed Legislation on Payment to Publishers

Google has initiated the removal of links to California news websites in response to proposed state legislation that seeks payment for news content usage by tech companies like Google and Meta. This decision, announced by Google on Friday, is being framed as a “test” to assess the impact of the legislation on its product experience.

The proposed California Journalism Preservation Act, introduced in March 2023 and awaiting a hearing by the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee, aims to mandate digital platforms to pay a “journalism usage fee” to eligible news outlets for using their content alongside digital advertisements.

While Meta has not yet responded to requests for comment, the move by Google has drawn strong criticism from lawmakers and proponents of the bill. California State Senate President Pro-Tempore Mike McGuire condemned Google’s actions as “bullying” and an “abuse of power,” emphasizing the potential risks to public safety posed by restricting access to news during emergencies.

The bill’s proponents argue that tech giants benefit financially from sharing content from local news publishers without adequately compensating them. Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, a co-author of the bill, stressed the need for fair compensation, stating that it’s time for digital ad companies to pay market value for the journalism they aggregate.

The California News Publishers Association expressed concern over Google’s actions, accusing the tech giant of suppressing California news and asserting that policymakers must act swiftly to address such behavior.

In response, Google has reiterated its opposition to what it terms a “link tax,” highlighting the business uncertainty and financial exposure posed by the proposed legislation. The company has previously taken similar actions against legislation in Canada and Australia, threatening to remove links to news content in those countries.

As discussions continue between Google and government entities, the outcome of this legislative battle could have significant implications for the future of news content distribution and digital platforms’ obligations to compensate publishers for their content.

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