Google warns that online news bill could force it to subsidize biased media | CBC News:

Google warns that the federal government’s online news bill could force it to subsidize unreliable or biased news sources, such as Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency.

However, the Canadian Media Industry Organization says that the drafting of the bill is strict, in particular, it excludes media outlets that promote the interests of the organization.

Google claims that the bill’s definition of a competent news source is so broad that non-professional news outlets in Canada with two or more journalists, including foreign-funded ones, can be paid by tech giants.

The online news bill, based on a similar Australian law, is intended to support the Canadian media industry in combating the spread of biased or unreliable news.

The bill, known in parliament as the C-18, would force tech giants such as Google և Meta to pay for reusing news produced by Canadian media outlets.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, pictured here in Ottawa on February 2, introduced a government bill on online news. (Adrian Wilde / Canadian Press)

The proposed legislation will also not allow technology giants to punish or give preference to media organizations with which it has reached an agreement.

But Google says it could affect its search engine ranking and content.

After the war in Ukraine, it began to restrict the visibility of the state-controlled Russian media organization RT, including the search engine Google News.

The definition is too broad, the company says

Google spokeswoman Lauren Skelly said the search engine could be “fined heavily for providing Canadians with the most useful, reliable content and for enforcing our own policies.”

Skelli said the tech giant defends the main purpose of the bill, but is concerned that the legislation, as drafted, could have unintended consequences, including paying news businesses that do not meet journalistic standards.

This could include two people who have set up a digital news organization from their basement, a foreign-sponsored news group with a Canadian bureau, or a far-left or far-right media outlet.

“We have to believe that this is not the result of policy makers; we hope to work with them to address these concerns,” Skelli said.

“Written legislation uses too broad a definition for ‘competent news businesses’ – ‘inappropriate preferences’ provisions that, if applied in practice, may have to pay for content that does not meet basic journalistic standards.”

However, the president of News Media Canada, which represents the country’s media industry, said the proposed law was carefully drafted.

“This is very good legislation, which specifically excludes media outlets that promote the interests of the organization as opposed to producing original news content of common interest,” said Paul Degan.

“The bill will allow much smaller publishers to come together and negotiate content licensing agreements with large technology companies. “We urge parliamentarians from all parties to work together to pass this much-needed legislation before the summer holidays.”

The regulation is left to the CEC

The Canadian Heritage Party said in a statement that “it is not the role of the government to decide what is online and what is not.”

“There is an objective set of criteria that are removed from political decision-making to be decided by qualified media outlets. “A free and independent press is essential to democracy,” the report said.

When it introduced the C-18 bill, the federal government said the legislation would provide high-quality, fact-based news available to Canadians amid growing misinformation and public distrust.

The Broadcasting Regulatory Authority of Canada’s Broadcasting Commission will be instructed to decide what qualifies as a news organization.

The bill states that a qualifying news group must be designated as a Canadian journalism organization under the Income Tax Act or publish news content on matters of general interest, such as working with two or more journalists in Canada.

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