Investigation being launched into Google removing news links in California

  • Google has reportedly been removing news links in the State of California as local government ponders legislation that would see publishers getting paid by online platforms.
  • The alleged behaviour has prompted the News/Media Alliance to ask US federal agencies to intervene and investigate the matter.
  • This is not the first time that Google has squared off against regulators when it comes to paying publishers.

In recent years regulators have squared off against online platform owners like Google and Facebook around greater compensation for publishers, with most failing in their attempts. The latest attempt comes from the State of California, which outlined a Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA) that passed last year, and subsequently prompted Google to remove news links in the region.

“Currently, creators of journalistic and creative content are not adequately compensated for the use of their work that takes a tremendous investment to produce. The CJPA would also promote the hiring of more journalists, requiring news publishers to invest 70 percent of the profits from the usage fee into journalism jobs,” highlighted the News/Media Alliance in a post last year too.

The same organisation is now asking US federal agencies to investigate the alleged actions of Google, as it was seen to have removed news links and search results from California-based publishers.

In its letter to the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, the Alliance noted that,”Google released no further details on how many Californians will be affected, how the Californians who will be denied news access were chosen, what publications will be affected, how long the compelled news blackouts will persist, and whether access will be blocked entirely or just to content Google particularly disfavors.”

“Because of these unknowns, there are many ways Google’s unilateral decision to turn off access to news websites for Californians could violate [various] laws,” it continued.

As has been the case in previous instances like this, Google has a very different view of the situation, noting that this is not the best way to support journalism.

“We have long said that this is the wrong approach to supporting journalism. If passed, CJPA may result in significant changes to the services we can offer Californians and the traffic we can provide to California publishers,” noted Jaffer Zaidi, VP of Global News Partnerships at Google, in a blog post shared last week.

“As we’ve shared when other countries have considered similar proposals, the uncapped financial exposure created by CJPA would be unworkable. If enacted, CJPA in its current form would create a level of business uncertainty that no company could accept,” he added.

It remains to be seen what the outcome of this entire saga will be should the United States DOJ and FTC get involved with an investigation, but as we have seen in past incidents, Google has been quite happy to stick to its guns, forcing many regulators to acquiesce.

That said, those incidents were never in the US, let alone in the same State where Google has its global headquarters. Either way, it will be interesting to see how things play out, as it will determine the fate of other online platforms too.

[Image – Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash]


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