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

(Ottawa) Google has warned the federal government that the online communications platform plan could force the company to subsidize biased news sites like Russian Sputnik.

Posted at 10:49 a.m.

Mary Woolf
The Canadian Press

However, News Media Canada, the association representing hundreds of print and digital titles, points out that the wording of the law is specific and 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, modeled on Australian legislation, aims to strengthen Canada’s news sector and combat the spread of fake news from unreliable or biased sources.

Bill C-18 would force giants like Google or Meta to pay for using 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 assumes that this could affect its news sorting system in its search engine and the way it moderates content.

A Google spokeswoman, Lauren Skelly, said the company could “be forced to make heavy changes to present the most useful and reliable content in Canada and to enforce [ses] own policies.

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

So two people have created 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 will partner with them to address these concerns,” said Skelly.

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

“It’s a very good bill that 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 proposed to small publishers to band together and negotiate content agreements with 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 an information 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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