Google blocking links to California news outlets from search results

Google has temporarily blocked links from local news outlets in California from appearing in search results in response to the advancement of a bill that would require tech companies to pay publications for links that articles share. The change applies only to some 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 cleared the California assembly in 2023. To become law, it would need to pass in the Senate before being signed by the governor, Gavin Newsom.

The company claims that the law will benefit large media corporations and hedge funds at the expense of smaller publishers. The bill was introduced last year and is pending in the state legislature.

“As we’ve shared when other countries have considered similar proposals, the uncapped financial exposure created by CJPA would be unworkable. If enacted, CJPA in its current form would create a level of business uncertainty that no company could accept,” said Jaffer Zaidi, VP, Global News Partnerships.

Google argued that by helping people find news stories, it helps publishers of all sizes grow their audiences at no cost to them. It also said that CJPA would also put small publishers at a disadvantage and limit consumers’ access to a diverse local media ecosystem.

Google to test removal of news links with small group

To prepare for possible CJPA implications, Google is a short-term test for a small percentage of users in California.
“The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience,” Zaidi added.

The company is also pausing further investments in the California news ecosystem, including new partnerships through Google News Showcase, product and licensing program for news organisations, and planned expansions of the Google News Initiative.

The company urged the lawmakers to take a different approach to “avoid an outcome where all parties lose and the California news industry is left worse off.”

“For more than a decade, tech giants built the world’s most valuable companies off the backs of journalists while siphoning off revenue from news publishers by creating digital advertising monopolies,” wrote Courtney Radsch, who leads the Center for Journalism and Liberty at the Open Markets Institute.

She said the legislation “is not just legislation for the media industry; it is a crucial step toward preserving the public interest in California.”

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