Google Protests Bill By Blocking Californians’ News Content

Last week, Google started blocking news content from reaching Californian feeds in protest of a state bill that mandates tech organizations pay publishers for content they put online.

The company made the announcement on Friday, April 12, responding to a pending piece of legislation that would require Google, Meta and other tech corporations to pay to have journalism on their platforms. Sparked by the California Journalism Preservation Act, Google is hiding news content from California-based outlets from certain users.

The bill could lead to the continual upending of certain “traffic we can provide to California publishers,” according to Google’s head of global news partnerships, Jaffer Zaidi. He added in an April 12 blog post that the tech company maintains its long-standing belief that “this is the wrong approach to supporting journalism.”

Zaidi also said that Google’s service of “helping people find news stories” is one which aids corporate and small publishers to “grow their audiences at no cost to them.”

Supporters of the legislation say that Google and its fellow big tech businesses are responsible for a large part of the loss in revenue seen by local news outlets as they take over digital advertising. News companies, therefore, should be paid for producing the reports that Google allows users to read for free.

However, tech organizations have responded by arguing that a mandated payment to news outlets would severely limit the amount of information available to the public and keep them from reading the news. Google’s restriction of local news for certain users in California is being done in an effort to show legislators what the new reality would be if the bill is passed.

But California is not the only part of the world to be threatened in this way by Google. As Canada was discussing its own controversial bill that would have significantly curtailed the amount of digital news content in the country, Google warned that it would react similarly to the present situation in California. The company has since reached an agreement with the Canadian government.

Other companies, though, including Meta, instead permanently removed all news content from its Canadian feeds. Meta has also said it will act similarly in the United States should any federal or state governments adopt policies that reflect the one enacted by Canada.

The California Journalism Preservation Act has not yet received a vote in the state senate.