Breaking The News: Google Removing News Links In Response To California’s CJPA

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As California’s Senate Judiciary Committee waits to hear the Assembly-passed California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), Google has taken a preemptive — and some say “undemocratic” — measure to remove links to news sites in the state.

Google is calling it a “short-term test for a small percentage of California users,” enacted to see what impact the pending legislation would have on the search engine and its product experience. 

Echoing Meta’s threats before it, Google’s step is founded on the belief that the CJPA would benefit larger media conglomerates more than small publishers. CJPA bill author and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks called Meta’s threats a “scare tactic” at the time, and the criticisms of Google’s actual link-removal late last week show the tactic is striking no fear within media circles.

“The internet search monopoly throttled traffic to California news sites in an attempt to threaten, intimidate and cajole California publications and lawmakers into dropping their support for the CJPA,” writes Danielle Coffey, president and CEO of the News/Media Alliance. “This undemocratic attack on journalism was an attempt to silence the voices of local news providers. We will not be silenced.”

In addition to the link removals, Google said it’s pausing further investments with its Google News Showcase partnerships, Google News Initiative, and other elements within the “California news ecosystem.”

“The (CJPA) would create a ‘link tax’ that would require Google to pay for simply connecting Californians to news articles,” says Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships. “We have long said that this is the wrong approach to supporting journalism. If passed, CJPA may result in significant changes to the services we can offer Californians and the traffic we can provide to California publishers. … If enacted, CJPA in its current form would create a level of business uncertainty that no company could accept.”

On Tuesday, the News/Media Alliance wrote the DOJ and FTC to request an investigation into whether Google’s actions violated any laws, citing the Lanham Act, the Sherman Antitrust Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act. 

“Importantly, Google released no further details on how many Californians will be affected, how the Californians who will be denied news access were chosen, what publications will be affected, how long the compelled news blackouts will persist, and whether access will be blocked entirely or just to content Google particularly disfavors,” the letter said. “Because of these unknowns, there are many ways Google’s unilateral decision to turn off access to news websites for Californians could violate [various] laws.”


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