Bill on communication platforms | Google says biased news sites could be funded

(Ottawa) Google is warning the federal government that the plan on online communication platforms could force the company to subsidize biased news sites like Russian Sputnik.

However, News Media Canada, the association representing hundreds of print and digital titles, points out that the wording of the law is specific and specifically excludes sites promoting an organization.

According to Google, the definition of an eligible news source is so vague that a company with two or more journalists could be eligible to get funds from telecom giants, even if it is subsidized by a foreign state.

This bill, inspired by Australian legislation, aims to support the information sector in Canada and to combat the spread of false news from unreliable or biased sources.

Bill C-18 would force giants like Google or Meta to pay to use news produced by Canadian media organizations. It would also prohibit them “from acting in a manner that unfairly discriminates against the company or from giving any natural person or entity — including itself — an undue or unreasonable preference”.

Google claims that this could affect its news sorting system in its search engine and the way it moderates content.

Google spokeswoman Lauren Skelly says the company could “face heavy fines for presenting the most useful and trusted content in Canada and for enforcing [ses] own policies.

Mme Skelly says the telecommunications giants support the principle of the bill, but worry about its unintended consequences, including having to subsidize companies that violate journalistic standards.

Like two people setting up a digital news site from their basement, foreign news agencies with an office in Canada, or extremist sites.

“We want to believe that this is not the objective of parliamentarians. We hope to work with them to address these concerns,” said Ms.me Skelly.

News Media Canada president Paul Deegan says the bill was thoughtfully drafted.

“It’s a very good bill that specifically excludes news media that promote the interests of an organization instead of producing original content of general interest,” he adds.

Mr. Deegan points out that the bill would allow small publishers to group together and negotiate content agreements with the large telecommunications companies. “We urge all elected officials of all parties to work together to quickly pass this legislation before the summer break. »

The Ministry of Heritage recalls that “it is not the role of the government to decide what is a news medium. »

He argues that the bill establishes “an objective list of criteria, outside the political process, to define a media”, adding that a free and independent press is essential in a democracy.

Under the bill, a qualifying business must be a qualified Canadian journalism organization within the meaning of the Income Tax Act or that produces news content that focuses primarily on matters of general interest and regularly employs least two journalists in Canada.

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