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Canada averts a Google news block, US bills in the works

Logos of mobile apps, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Netflix displayed on a screen.

Logos of mobile apps, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Netflix displayed on a screen.

REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
Last week, the Trudeau government reached a deal with Google that will see the web giant pay roughly CA$100 million a year to support media outlets in Canada. The agreement is part of the Online News Act, a law that requires big tech outlets to compensate the journalism industry. It’s also an important moment in the ongoing, cross-border battle to regulate these companies.

The act, which is modeled on Australian legislation, led Google to threaten to de-index news from its search engine. In protest of the law, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, blocked links to Canadian news in the country on both platforms. It’s currently holding out on a deal as Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge tries to get the company back to the bargaining table.

The Online News Act kerfuffle is a symptom of a bigger issue: the power of governments to regulate large tech firms – a fight that is playing out in Canada, the US, and around the world. California is considering a law similar to Australia's and Canada’s. The bill passed the Assembly but is now on hold in the state senate until 2024. In March, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Sens. Mike Lee and Amy Klobuchar, introduced a similar bill in the Senate, casting it as an anti-trust, pro-competition measure. Meta has made similar threats to pull news in response to the US push to mirror the Australian and Canadian laws.

Tech giants are resisting attempts to extract funds from them to support news media, a tactic that is part of a broader strategy to oppose regulation. But the Australian and Canadian successes may encourage California, the US Congress, and other states to move forward with similar efforts. The coming months will be a test of whether governments are able – and willing – to regulate these powerful companies. All eyes should be on the progress, or not, of the California and Congressional bills along with Canada’s negotiations with Meta since these cases will help decide the future of tech regulation itself.

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