Google to pull links to California news in response to ‘link tax’ bill

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Key Takeaways

  • Google is temporarily responding to a bill that would make it pay for news in California.
  • State legislators and industry figures have come out in support of the action.
  • The legislation follows similar efforts in Australia and Canada.

Google is removing links to California news sources in its search results in response to proposed legislation which would compel the tech giant to pay publications for their content.

The California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA) was introduced in 2023 and has been passed by the state Assembly, but it would need to be cleared by the senate and then enshrined by Governor Gavin Newsom before it was enacted.

The initial changes introduced only apply to a small number of users in the Golden State, as a “test,” for the Alphabet company to assess “the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

Google’s head of global news partnerships, Zaffer Jaidi, penned a blog update on April 12th blasting the “link tax” as the wrong approach to support local journalism. Google claimed the charges could put obstacles in the way of providing relevant news and services to Californians.

The company has strongly urged state legislators to take an alternate course of action.

In a response posted on X, California State Senate President Pro-Tempore Mike McGuire, a co-author of the bill, slammed Google for an act of “bullying” and what he viewed as an “abuse of power.”

Chris Argentieri, President and COO of the Los Angeles Times spoke to CNN, adding his voice to the calls for the bill to be implemented.

“Google’s threat to deny critical information to Californians as a response to proposed legislation … is outrageous,” he said. 

“Google’s response is another data point that actually supports the need for the legislation and shows the merits of the scrutiny they are facing from the U.S. Department of Justice,” Argenteri added. “California has a long history of rejecting bullying tactics of this kind, and I fully expect the result in this case will be no different.”

The CJPA mirrors similar actions taken in Australia and Canada, where the big tech giants have been challenged for their impact on news publishers.

Back in 2021, Australian lawmakers passed legislation to make the major social media platforms pay for sharing content from news publishers. Meta recently said it will stop the payments.

A row erupted in Canada last year after Meta blocked news during a wildfire crisis. That followed the passing of the Online News Act in Ottawa, which demanded compensation from internet giants linking to news stories.