Google Considers Killing Google News in Europe Over Article 11

The debate over article 11 and article 13 continues. Now Google is considering dropping Google news because of the link tax.

Earlier this month, European lawmakers published a propaganda piece to try and dispel so-called “myths” surrounding article 11 and article 13. Of course, digital rights advocates and organizations quickly debunked the attempt to deny the existence of the censorship machine and link tax.

Shortly after that episode, Google allowed people to test an Article 11 compliant news service. The revamped service would load blank boxes and drops specific URLs. Additionally, no snippets accompany any results. Instead, the links lead directly to home pages of prominent news sources in the area and that’s it.

Now, the search engine giant is revealing that they are weighing another option entirely: dropping the Google News service entirely in Europe should the laws pass. From Bloomberg:

Google News might quit the continent in response to the directive, said Jennifer Bernal, Google’s public policy manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The internet company has various options, and a decision to pull out would be based on a close reading of the rules and taken reluctantly, she said.

“The council needs more time to reflect in order to reach a solid position” on the directive, said a representative of Romania, current head of the European Council, which represents the 28 member nations.

Google has said it doesn’t make money from its news service so it’s unlikely the company would take a financial hit from withdrawing. But news results keep mobile users coming back to its search engine, where they often pursue queries that generate lucrative ad revenue. Google also competes against rival mobile news-aggregation services from Apple Inc. and Facebook.

The idea of pulling the news service out of Europe might sound like Google is giving up on the region, however, the threat of pulling out is actually a very effective tool in getting publishers to rethink the position of demanding money for publishing links to their services.

A large number of websites depend on search engines like Google to send overall traffic their way. This is because so many users find themselves using Google in the first place. For news organizations, a fair amount of traffic can come from Google News which aggregates news articles. If Google cuts off Europe, then that traffic gets cut off as well.

When there is less traffic to those sites, advertising revenue tends to drop. This along with readership of course. Some people less in the know might argue that this is fine because they can always rely on print media to pull in the dollars. Of course, print media has been shrinking for years as more and more people get their news online. In fact, there is a website devoted to documenting the decline in print journalism called Newspaper Death Watch. That can reflect the trend to moving online in the first place.

With so many news sources moving towards an online only model, a major drop in advertising revenue and readership could prove to be a huge blow to those organizations. That’s why the symbiotic relationship between news aggregators and news sources is so crucial. Aggregators help drive traffic to those sources and those sources provide the news in the first place. Attacking the aggregators is like print publishers attacking the paper industry for getting a free ride on the backs of journalism – it’s just a plain bad idea.

So, Google threatening to pull out of Europe is a very effective potential tool in the fight to stop the link tax in the first place. It’s unfortunate that a lot of damage may have to be done to get a point across, but aggregators like Google have a number of cards to play in this copyright fight.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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