Google has confirmed it is testing methods of censoring news content in Canada as part of a response to a recent government bill, the company confirmed on Wednesday.
The "Online News Act," introduced last year by the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will seek to force platforms like Meta's Facebook and Google to negotiate commercial deals and compensate news publishers for their content.
"We're briefly testing potential product responses to Bill C-18 that impact a very small percentage of Canadian users. We run thousands of tests each year to assess any potential changes to Search," said Google spokesperson Shay Purdy.
"We’ve been fully transparent about our concern that C-18 is overly broad and, if unchanged, could impact products Canadians use and rely on every day," they continued. "We remain committed to supporting a sustainable future for news in Canada and offering solutions that fix Bill C-18.”
The company added that the time-limited tests will "limit the visibility of Canadian and international news to varying degrees" to a small percentage of Canadians.
A spokeswoman for Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez condemned Google's efforts as a method of shirking their responsibilities. "Canadians need to have access to quality, fact-based news at the local and national levels, and that’s why we introduced the Online News Act," the spokeswoman said. "Tech giants need to be more transparent and accountable to Canadians."
“This didn’t work in Australia, and it won’t work here because Canadians won’t be intimidated," she continued. "At the end of the day, all we’re asking the tech giants to do is compensate journalists when they use their work.”
The test comes after Facebook warned last year that it may prohibit the sharing of news content on its platform in Canada due to concerns about proposed legislation that would require digital platforms to pay news publishers.
A similar law was implemented in Australia in March 2021 after negotiations with Big Tech companies resulted in a temporary halt of Facebook news feeds in the country.
Meanwhile, Canadian news companies have been generally supportive of the legislation and called on the government to aggressively regulate tech companies to help the industry recover from financial losses that it has incurred as Facebook and Google have increasingly captured more advertising market share. The industry is currently undergoing major changes, with the closure of over 450 Canadian news outlets since 2008, including 64 closures within the past two years.