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Google Temporarily Blocks Links to California News Sites

ByHuey Yee Ong

Apr 17, 2024

Google Temporarily Blocks Links to California News Sites

Google has announced a significant move in response to the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), temporarily blocking links from local news outlets in California from appearing in search results for some users in the state.

The CJPA, which has advanced through the California assembly, would require large online platforms to pay a “journalism usage fee” for linking to news sites based in California. Google’s decision is seen as a protest against the bill, which it believes represents “the wrong approach to supporting journalism” and could create business uncertainty.

Experimenting with Search Results

In a blog post by Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s head of global news partnerships, the company explained that it is experimenting with removing local news links for a “small percentage” of California users in anticipation of the bill potentially passing. The move is aimed at urging lawmakers to reconsider their approach to supporting journalism.

Additionally, Google announced a suspension of further investments in the California news ecosystem, including cutting California publications from its Google News Showcase feature, which pushes stories to users in a streamlined feed to boost traffic to publishers.

The CJPA is meant to address the decline of the local journalism industry, which has suffered due to the rise of social media and other online platforms. However, critics argue that the legislation could disproportionately benefit larger publishers over smaller outlets.

A study by Free Press Action found that the majority of websites that would benefit from reimbursement mandated by the bill are owned by just 20 major firms. This has led major media companies to lobby heavily against the legislation.

Meta’s Opposition to Similar Legislation

In response to the CJPA, Meta has not followed through on threats to remove news content from Facebook and Instagram. However, the company has previously taken drastic measures in response to similar legislation, such as banning Canadian users from sharing news on its apps after Canada passed the Online News Act, which required tech companies to pay content fees to domestic media outlets.

Google’s decision to block links to California news websites also reflects its past opposition to similar media payment measures abroad. The company has previously opposed such measures in countries like Spain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. However, it’s notable that Google has ultimately acquiesced to these rules in those regions, suggesting a willingness to comply with regulatory frameworks over time.

While supporters of the CJPA argue that it will help news publishers receive a fair share of ad profits, critics within the journalism industry express concerns about potential imbalances favoring larger, more-resourced newsrooms.

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Featured Image courtesy of rvolkan/Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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