Google Says It’s Position is Unchanged, Still Intends on Dropping News Links

Google is still in talks with the Canadian government, however, their position still remains unchanged over the Online News Act.

Clear back in June, Google announced that it would be ending support for news links in response to the Canadian governments ridiculous link tax law known currently known as the Online News Act. The situation is really bad because Meta has already dropped news links in Canada – a forced move that has resulted in a massive amount of damage on the Canadian news sector.

Really, Google’s continuing to allow news links on their platforms and talking to the government is the only thing preventing me from saying that the Online News Act has completely failed. Despite supporters and the government being in dire straits, the Canadian government shockingly raised the link tax rate to a ridiculous 4%, further motivating Google to just follow through with their announcement and dropping news links altogether. If you thought the raise was insanely delusional, Unifor decided to try and screw over parts of their own membership by calling on the government to raise the link tax rate to a ludicrous 7%. It’s difficult to describe just how delusional it is that supporters think they have a bargaining ship in any of this, let alone make demands of 7% of ad revenue on top of it all.

Of course, Google isn’t just sitting around twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the right opportunity to make their decision. As we noted last month, Google has met with the Canadian government over 100 times to try and work something out. However, it seems that getting through to the government was more or less like banging your head on a brick wall. Throughout those talks, Google was still trying to get a clear answer over what it is they are even obliged to do under this law. You would think that this would be an easy question for the government to answer, but even I’m not aware of any real clear answer to this. It was always a vague answer of “give money to publishers” which is, of course, not all that helpful.

The thing is, with the governments announcement back in July, we know that the Online News Act comes into force no later than December 19th. There’s still time, yes, but that date is getting closer and closer. Sooner or later, Google is going to have to make that call of whether to officially drop news links or go along with this legislation. So, you would think that there would be some progress to show for all these talks in recent days.

If you were hoping for some possible breakthrough and Google just going along with this law, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Recent reports suggest that Google’s position, to this day, remains unchanged. From Mobile Syrup:

Google says it still has potential plans to restrict search results for Canadian news despite the Liberal government proposing changes to the Online News Act (Bill C-18) in an effort to appease the tech giant.

Google released the following statement to The Globe and Mail, following a 30-day public consultation regarding the Online News Act:

“Unfortunately, the proposed regulations fail to sufficiently address the critical structural problems with C-18 that regrettably were not dealt with during the legislative process. We continue to have serious concerns that the core issues ultimately may not be solvable through regulation and that legislative changes may be necessary. We have been and will remain engaged and transparent with the government about our concerns and will await the publication of final regulations.”

The office of Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge released the following statement regarding the government’s ongoing negotiations with Google:

“We remain confident that we can work constructively to address questions or concerns through the regulatory process.”

This is not a good sign. I mean, at this point, if you are hoping Google would bend at the knee on this, you are now more or less banking on an American style 11th hour deal (I’ve seen too many debt ceiling talks) that averts all of this in dramatic fashion. I would suggest that this is an unwise thing to pin your hopes on. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? Not really. All indications point to Google eventually giving up on the continued word salad of the government and just dropping news links entirely.

The best step forward has long been to rescind the law and go back to the drawing board. If Unifor’s call is anything to go by, they are, remarkably, still under the delusion that they are “winning” in this fight. With that in mind, the situation, at this point in time, seems almost completely hopeless.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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