Google Blocking Some California Stories From News Search Results.

Photo: Pixabay. A stack of newspapers. How many can stay in business?
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Google has started blocking links from local news outlets in California from appearing in search results in response to the legislative progress of a bill in the California legistlature that would make tech companies pay publications for links that articles share.

The change does not apply to all people using Google in California, though 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 passed in the California assembly in 2023. To become law, it still needs to win a vote in the Senate before being signed off by the governor, Gavin Newsom.

Stories from California-based news organizations will not be available for an unspecified number of state residents who use Google to search the web, in a show of its might as Google attempts to quash a state proposal it has been fighting for years.

It is an approach Google has deployed before in the face of laws forcing the company to pay for journalism. Critics of the tech giant’s hardball tactics have compared it to blackmail.

In California, the pending law in question would force tech companies like Google and Meta to pay publishers for news content.

Supporters say it would offer a lifeline to California’s news organizations, which have long been shedding jobs.

This situation is by no means unique to California as local newspapers in many states have struggled to stay alive in the face of competition from the Internet. Traditionally regional newspapers in the US had derived a great deal of their income from advertising for real estate and motor vehicles.

But Google has been resisting the bill, arguing that being subject to what it calls “a link tax” for connecting California residents with news articles is “unworkable.

In its blog post, Google executive Jaffer Zaidi said the pending legislation, the California Journalism Preservation Act, is the wrong approach to supporting journalism.

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

“If passed, CJPA may result in significant changes to the services we can offer Californians and the traffic we can provide to California publishers,” Zaidi wrote.

According to Zaidi, the blackout of California news articles is in anticipation of the bill passing. He said the move was temporary and would affect “a small percentage of California users.”

In 2023, Google made $307 billion, mostly through digital advertising.

Google and Meta have developed something of a playbook in response to efforts requiring tech giants to financially support the ailing news industry.

A spokesperson for Meta did not reply to questions about whether it too would begin restricting California news. Previously, Meta  to do so.

In Canada, Google threatened to pull all news links in the country after the passage of a law that made the company compensate media outlets for content. But Google hammered out a deal with government officials there before ever yanking news articles. Meta, meanwhile, continues to block news articles in Canada on Instagram and Facebook.

Canada’s law was patterned after similar legislation in Australia, where Meta also blocked news stories before tense negotiations led Meta and Google to eventually strike deals with news publishers.

Source: NPR, The Guardian.
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