Google Begins Blocking News From California Outlets Over State Bill

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Google has temporarily blocked access to California-based news outlets for some state residents, as the search giant escalates its battle with the state over a landmark bill which would force tech giants to pay online publishers for their content.

In doing so, the company has revived a political tactic used repeatedly by the tech industry to try and derail similar legislation in places like Canada and Australia which require online platforms to pay outlets for articles featured on their websites, Politico reports.

"We have long said that this is the wrong approach to supporting journalism," said Google's VP for global news partnership, Jaffer Zaidi, in a Friday blog post. According to Zaidi, the bill could "result in significant changes to the services we can offer Californians and the traffic we can provide to California publishers."

Sacramento is hosting the latest round of a global fight over the journalism industry’s future in the digital age, and California’s battle has taken on additional resonance because the state is home to tech titans. Advocates for such legislation argue companies like Google and Meta have helped decimate already flagging newsroom revenues through their control over digital advertising, and outlets deserve compensation for content that users may see on their platforms for free.

The companies counter that these laws could stifle vital sources of information — and they’ve fought back by attempting to preview what they say that would look like. -Politico

In Canada, Google similarly threatened to block content before reaching a deal with the government last November, three weeks before the 'Online News Act' came into effect. The company agreed to make annual payments to news outlets in the range of $100 million.

Meta, meanwhile, has completely removed news content from its social feed in Canada, and has threatened to do the same in California - where the company has lobbied heavily against the measures currently under consideration in the state legislature. The company has spent over $1 million to run an ad campaign decrying the bill as a "link tax," a phrase Zaidi used in his blog post.

According to state Sen. Ben Allen (D), "Newspaper publishers and the journalists provide a really important service as a part of [Google’s] broader business model, and meanwhile they’re going bankrupt and you guys have record profits."

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