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Google limits access to news content in Canada

Google is conducting a small test where the search company is blocking news content in Google Search for fewer than 4% of Canadian users for the next few weeks. A Google spokesperson confirmed this test with Search Engine Land, adding that this is a “potential product response to Bill C-18.”

What’s being tested. Google is testing blocking news across all Canadian publisher websites, in Google Search, Google Discover and other Google surfaces. This test is limited to less than 4% of Canadians.

Google said. Google told us, “We’re briefly testing potential product responses to Bill C-18 that impact a very small percentage of Canadian users. We run thousands of tests each year to assess any potential changes to Search.” “We’ve been fully transparent about our concern that C-18 is overly broad and, if unchanged, could impact products Canadians use and rely on every day. We remain committed to supporting a sustainable future for news in Canada and offering solutions that fix Bill C-18,” Google added.

What is Bill C-18. Bill C-18 would enact the Online News Act, which proposes a regime to regulate digital platforms that act as intermediaries in Canada’s news media ecosystem in order to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news market, according to the Government of Canada site.

What it looks like. We’ve been trying to find examples of this change across the web and we asked Google to confirm these findings but have not yet heard back from Google if this is how the the blocking will appear to Canadians.

Here are some examples we found on Twitter:

I’m not sure if Google has officially started blocking news in Canada yet, but I haven’t been able to search news websites for over a week — both mobile and PC

— 𝘽𝙧𝙮𝙖𝙣 𝙋𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙛𝙞𝙪𝙢𝙚 (@BryanPassifiume) February 23, 2023

It seems to be specifically impacting Canadian news sites — here’s an account/incognito search for ‘Joe Biden’ (Incognito mode denoted with an ‘I’ and my missing Google account profile photo)

— 𝘽𝙧𝙮𝙖𝙣 𝙋𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙛𝙞𝙪𝙢𝙚 (@BryanPassifiume) February 23, 2023

History. We had a similar situation with Australia where Google would remove links to publishers if they had to pay to link to those publishers. Also, we had this with Spain, where publishers’ content was limited and then Google was asked to later put it back to how it was.

Why we care. This is just a heads up to searchers and publishers that you might see less content from Google Search and it might lead to less traffic to your website. So keep an eye on your analytics but again, this is a very limited test.

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