Google is blocking news across some Canadian publisher websites in Google Search, Google Discover and other Google platforms in a test that affects less than 4% of Canadians.
The test, which will run for about five weeks, is in response to Bill C-18.
The bill, if passed, would enact the Online News Act to regulate digital platforms and dub them intermediaries in Canada. The idea is to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news market, according to the Government of Canada website.
“We’re briefly testing potential product responses to Bill C-18 that impact a very small percentage of Canadian users," a Google spokesperson wrote in an email to Search & Performance Marketing Daily. "We run thousands of tests each year to assess any potential changes to Search."
The spokesperson noted that Google has been fully transparent about concerns that C-18 is overly broad and if unchanged, could impact news products that Canadians use and rely on every day.
"We remain committed to supporting a sustainable future for news in Canada and offering solutions that fix Bill C-18," the Google spokesperson wrote.
These types of tests help Google developers understand the implications of potential product changes -- and not every test results in a product change. Google runs thousands of tests each year around the world to assess any potential changes to Search.
Bryan Passifiume, a Parliamentary bureau reporter at the National Post, noticed and tweeted about the change Wednesday. At the time he was unsure whether Google had officially begun to block news in Canada, but had not been able to search news websites for more than a week on mobile and PC.
The move in Canada reflects a similar scenario in Australia. Media agencies reported that Google has been hiding some Australian news sites from search results in a move that shows how the tech company can determine what people see on the internet. The report from The Australian Financial Review came at a time when Google was negotiating with the Australian government with regard to financial payment for content.
In February 2021, Google struck a content deal with publishers and launched a platform in Australia offering paid news content.
The initial Australian publishers in the launch were paid to provide content for News Showcase, Google’s project. Some of those publications at the time included The Canberra Times, The Illawarra Mercury, The Saturday Paper, Crikey, The New Daily, InDaily and The Conversation.
The News Showcase platform originally rolled out in Brazil and Germany. It had been scheduled to launch in June in Australia, but plans were delayed when Canberra, the capital city of Australia, moved to make it a legal requirement for Google and Facebook to pay for content from media companies, according to one news source.
The Australian law took effect in March 2021 after talks with the big tech firms led to a brief shutdown of Facebook news feeds in the country.