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Links to CA News Sites Could Disappear from Google

The tech giant is fighting back against California lawmakers.

The war on social media and the internet just kicked off a new battle. This time, Google is fighting back against California lawmakers who seek to tax the search engine company when it uses the state’s news sites alongside advertisement. In retaliation, Google announced that it will remove links, at least temporarily, to news sites from the Golden State.

Google vs California Lawmakers

Democrat Assemblymember Buffy Wicks is the author of Assembly Bill 886, called the “California Journalism Preservation Act,” (CJPA) which will require large platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to pay websites for news articles that the platform features on their sites, a move critics refer to as a “link tax.”

According to Wicks’ website, the bill “requires digital advertising monopolies like Google and Facebook to pay for content they siphon from local news outlets.” It will direct big tech companies “to pay publishers a ‘journalism usage fee’ each time they use local news content and sell advertising alongside it.” Furthermore, the bill will require news publishers to spend 70% of the profits toward journalism jobs. The purpose of this bill, according to Wicks, is to help preserve local news providers. “These dominant ad companies are enriching their own platforms with local news content without adequately compensating the originators,” the lawmaker wrote. “It’s time they start paying market value for the journalism they are aggregating at no cost from local media.”

Google’s vice president of global news partnerships, Jaffer Zaidi, published a blog on April 12 to announce the company’s decision to remove links to some of California’s news sites, although he did not specify which organizations would be affected. He refers to the proposed bill as a “link tax” that would “require Google to pay for simply connecting Californias to news articles.” He added, “If enacted, CJPA in its current form would create a level of business uncertainty that no company could accept.” To prepare for the bill, Zaidi said Google will be testing certain processes that involve removing the links to measure the impact of the proposed legislation. Furthermore, the tech company said it would pause Google News Showcase, which operates in 26 countries with more than 2,500 participating publications, and Google News Initiative, which has partnered with more than 7,000 new publishers around the world “including 200 news organizations and 6,000 journalists in California alone,” he explained. Zaidi further warned that the bill would:

“favor media conglomerates and hedge funds – who’ve been lobbying for this bill – and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content. CJPA would also put small publishers at a disadvantage and limit consumers’ access to a diverse local media ecosystem.”

Last year, Facebook responded to the proposed legislation in a post on X saying that, if it passes, news  would be removed from Facebook and Instagram “rather than pay into a slush fund that primarily benefits big, out-of-state media companies under the guise of aiding California publishers.”

Critics also warn that more artificial intelligence-generated news would pop up, adding to the concern that AI will manipulate and provide further misinformation. Another justified worry is America’s loss of trust in the news. The bill was passed by the California Assembly last year and is currently waiting to be taken up by the Senate.

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