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Google blocks links to California news outlets in search results

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Google blocks links to California news outlets in search results

Google has temporarily blocked links to local news outlets in California from appearing in search results in response to the advancement of a bill that would require technology companies to pay publications for links that share articles. The change applies only to some people who use Google in California, although it is not clear how many.

The California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA) would require large online platforms to pay a “journalism usage fee” for linking to news sites based in the Golden State. The bill was passed by the California Assembly in 2023. To become law, it would have to pass the Senate before being signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

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In a blog post published on fridayJaffer Zaidi, Google’s head of global news partnerships, explained that the company is experimenting with removing local news links for a “small percentage” of California users in preparation for the bill’s possible passage.

“We don’t make these decisions lightly and we want to be transparent with California publishers, legislators and our users,” he said. “To avoid a win-win outcome that leaves California’s journalism industry worse off, we urge lawmakers to take a different approach.”

Google will also suspend “further investments in the California news ecosystem,” the blog post said, removing California publications from its Google News Showcase, a feature that pushes stories to users in an optimized feed in an effort to increase engagement. traffic to publishers.

In May 2023, in response to California legislation, Meta said it would be forced to remove news content from Facebook and Instagram “rather than pay into a slush fund that primarily benefits large out-of-state media companies.” ”. The company has not yet followed through on those statements and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The California bill aims to support the local journalism industry, which has been gutted in recent decades partly due to the rise of social media and other online means of accessing news. But media equity advocates say the legislation is misguided and will benefit larger publishers over smaller outlets that are seeing more drastic impacts.

A study by Free Press Action, a media reform advocacy group, found that more than 80% of the websites that would benefit from the refund required by the bill are owned by just 20 major companies. Because of this, major media companies have pressed hard against the legislation.

“It’s a fight between Google and the corporate media, and in the end, California residents are the losers,” said Mike Rispoli, senior director of Free Press Action. “This speaks to the real challenges that local news faces today when the way news is created and how it is accessed is controlled by these large corporations that are simply looking out for themselves.”

The California bill is the latest to challenge Big Tech companies for their impact on news publishers. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, have fought similar legislation in Australia and Canada. That fight came to a head in Canada when Meta off news services in the country in 2023, in the midst of a forest fire crisis. Blocking of links to news in Canada continues.

Meta also continued to scale back its news services in Australia after the country passed a bill in 2021 forcing social media companies to pay publishers for content shared on their platforms. In March he intensified the battle with legislators there by indicating would stop paying publishers for content.

Similar legislation is being considered in Illinois. Introduced in February 2024, the Journalism Preservation Act would require social media companies to pay a fee based on how many times a month they engage with a news outlet’s work.

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