Google took the unusual step of writing to every congressman and senator who expressed concern that the online news bill was rushing through Congress without proper debate or consideration.
In its letter, Google warned that the bill needs more scrutiny because of its implications, including how the search engine ranks content and enhances information from “reliable sources.” “like the government.
Invoice C-18as known in Parliament, is designed to support the Canadian news industry and will make online platforms like Google and Meta compensate media organizations for reusing their journalism.
In its letter, Google said it agreed with the bill’s purpose to support the Canadian press, including financially, but said there were many flaws in the proposed law that could have serious consequences. far-reaching results.
It listed a series of “misconceptions” about how the bill would work in practice, warning MPs that, as it was said, it could force Google to subsidize foreign state-owned news outlets. .
It said the bill has a very broad definition of “eligible news businesses” and could mean “foreign state-owned outlets may qualify even if they are known as source of disinformation and propaganda”.
The letter also warned that, as it stands, the bill’s “excessive prioritization” provision could “prohibit features that enhance information from trusted sources (including government information) or reduce low-quality news (including from qualified foreign state media outlets).”
“The broad scope of this provision threatens potential liability for any type of rating or moderation of news content or any action that may have a negative impact on any outlet, even if that outlet is known to produce propaganda or misinformation,” the letter added.
Canadian Media Corporation: Tech companies should pay for news
But Laura Scaffidi, a spokeswoman for Heritage Secretary Pablo Rodriguez, said the Online News Act “is critically important legislation to ensure that tech giants pay publishers fairly. and Canadian journalists for their work.”
The government has been quick to track the bill through the Commons, reducing the time it spends debated on the floor of the House of Commons before being put into committee for closer scrutiny.
Scaffidi said the bill “has been forwarded to the committee for further study and discussion from MPs, experts and other witnesses” and will return to the House and Senate for further debate.
However, Conservative Party leader John Brassard accused the government of “limiting and stifling debate” on MPs’ bill.
He said: “I am really disappointed that they have allotted time for such a controversial bill and important work needs to be done. “What they are doing is simply bypassing the House of Commons. We only had two hours of debate on C-18 and, as the Official Opposition, we only had one speaker. ”
“Getting this right is far more important than getting it done quickly,” said Google spokeswoman Lauren Skelly.
She said Google had written to congressmen and senators because it was important for them to “know where we stand” and said the bill as it is written is “deeply flawed”.
She added, in a statement, that Google is “very supportive of making a financial contribution to support a sustainable future for journalism and the news ecosystem in Canada.”
News Media Canada’s Paul Deegan, which represents the country’s news media industry, said “this is an important law that should be studied by the heritage commission immediately.”
“It will benefit publishers large and small – as similar legislation has in Australia.”
© 2022 Canadian Press