Faced with possibly paying for news, Google removes links to California news sites for some users (2024)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Google on Friday began removing California news websites from some people’s search results, a test that acted as a threat should the state Legislature pass a law requiring the search giant to pay media companies for linking to their content.

Google announced the move in a blog post on Friday, calling it a “short-term test for a small percentage of users ... to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.” The company said it also would pause new investments in the California news industry, including the partnership initiative with news organizations and its product licensing program.

“By helping people find news stories, we help publishers of all sizes grow their audiences at no cost to them. (This bill) would up-end that model,” Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s vice president for global news partnerships, wrote in the blog post.

The California Legislature is considering a bill that would require tech giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft to pay a certain percentage of advertising revenue to media companies for linking to their content. How much the companies would have to pay would be decided by a panel of three judges through an arbitration process.


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The bill aims to stop the loss of journalism jobs, which have been disappearing rapidly as legacy media companies have struggled to profit in the digital age. More than 2,500 newspapers have closed in the U.S. since 2005, according to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. California has lost more than 100 news organizations in the past decade, according to Democratic Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, the bill’s author.

“This is a bill about basic fairness — it’s about ensuring that platforms pay for the content they repurpose,” Wicks said. “We are committed to continuing negotiations with Google and all other stakeholders to secure a brighter future for California journalists and ensure that the lights of democracy stay on.”

The state Assembly passed the bill last year with bipartisan support despite fierce opposition and lobbying efforts from big tech companies. The California Senate would have to pass it later this year for it to become law.

Supporters said the legislation would help level the playing field between news publishers and large digital platforms and provide a “lifeline” to local news organizations, which rely heavily on Google’s search engine to distribute its content in the digital era. While Google’s search engine has become the hub of a digital advertisem*nt empire that generates more than $200 billion annually, news publishers saw their advertising revenues nosedive significantly in the last few decades.

But opponents, including Google, Meta and some independent newsrooms, call the legislation a “link tax” that would primarily benefit out-of-state newspaper chains and hedge funds and further decimate local news organizations. Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of news, also told state lawmakers, in a hearing last December, that Google already made significant contributions to support local journalism, pointing to the tech giant’s financial grants and training to nearly 1,000 local publications in 2023, among other programs.

Google’s search engine should be seen as “the largest newsstand on Earth,” Gingras said, where it helps connect users to news websites more than 24 billion times per month. Google’s search engine holds an estimated 90% share of the market.

“This traffic in turn helps publishers make money by showing ads or attracting new subscribers,” he said, adding that it’s estimated that each click on a link from Google is worth 5 cents to 7 cents to a news website.

Google’s decision to temporarily remove links to news websites is not a new tactic for tech giants to use when pushing back on unwanted legislation. When Canada and Australia passed similar laws to promote journalism, Meta — the company that owns Facebook and Instagram — responded by blocking content from Canadian publishers on its sites in Canada. The company made similar threats to U.S. Congress and California lawmakers last year. Google had threatened to do the same in Canada. But in November, Google agreed to pay 100 million Canadian dollars ($74 million U.S. dollars) to the news industry.

News publishers would suffer and could lay off more journalists if Google completely blocks content from its search, but experts say Google also would take a financial hit without news content.

“Google would be damaging itself enormously if it decided to stop using newspaper content,” Brandon Kressin, an antitrust attorney representing News Media Alliance and other news publishers, told lawmakers in a December hearing. “They would be cutting off their nose to spite their own face.”

The political wrangling over Google’s dominant search engine can throttle access to various news sources comes against the backdrop of legal trouble that could culminate in decisions that undercut the company’s internet empire.

After presenting evidence to support its allegations that Google has been abusing its power to stifle competition and innovation during the biggest antitrust trial in a quarter century, lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department will present its closing arguments next month to a federal judge who is expected to issue a decision in the case later this year.

Following another antitrust trial that ended in December, a federal jury concluded Google had turned its app store for smartphones running on its Android software into an illegal monopoly that limited consumer choices while enriching the company through unfairly high commissions charged for in-app purchases. A hearing on the changes that Google will have to make resulting from that verdict is also scheduled to occur next month.

California has attempted to boost local journalism through various initiatives, including a $25 million multiyear, state-funded program in partnership with UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism to place 40 early-career journalists in local newsrooms annually. Lawmakers are also considering another proposal that would expand tax credits for local news organizations this year.


Associated Press reporter Michael Liedtke in San Francisco contributed to the report.

Faced with possibly paying for news, Google removes links to California news sites for some users (2024)


Faced with possibly paying for news, Google removes links to California news sites for some users? ›

Why the California Journalism Preservation Act is putting support of the news ecosystem at risk. A pending bill in the California state legislature, the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), would create a “link tax” that would require Google to pay for simply connecting Californians to news articles.

What is the link tax in California? ›

Why the California Journalism Preservation Act is putting support of the news ecosystem at risk. A pending bill in the California state legislature, the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), would create a “link tax” that would require Google to pay for simply connecting Californians to news articles.

How much does Google News cost? ›

Yes, there is a paid version of Google News called "Google News Showcase." The cost of the subscription can vary depending on the publisher and the content they offer, but it typically ranges from $5 to $15 per month.

How do I remove news stories from Google? ›

Removing a News Article from Google Search and the Internet

In essence, the only way to remove the article is to directly contact the news agency or the individual who published it and request that they remove it. This request is known in the industry as a request for “unpublishing.”

What state has the highest income tax? ›

California has the highest individual income tax burden, while seven states (including Texas, Florida and Washington) have the lowest. Washington has the highest sales and excise tax burden, while New Hampshire has the lowest. Red states have a lower tax burden than blue states, on average.

Why is pink tax a thing? ›

There isn't one single reason that the pink tax exists. It exists, in part, because some women's items are more expensive to make. For example, there might be additional costs related to importing items that get passed on to the consumer.

What is better than Google News? ›

Flipboard is a popular news aggregator app which is available for both Android and iOS. Unlike news sources, Flipboard seeks your interest in topics and creates a personalized feed of news. Using AI and user preference, it creates a curated list of news and articles which you are very likely to read.

Is Google News still available? ›

Google News is available as an app on Android, iOS, and the Web.

What is the Google News limit? ›

The Google News feed follows these parameters: Update frequency: Each feed is fetched about every 30 minutes, unless WebSub is used to notify Google News of changes. Learn more about update frequency of feed content. Size limit: 1 MB per article and 2 MB per feed.

What is the link tax? ›

The CJPA, introduced in the California State Legislature, aims to support local journalism by creating what Google refers to as a “link tax.” If passed, the Act would force companies like Google to pay media outlets when sending readers to news articles.

Who pays California ETT tax? ›

Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Employment Training Tax (ETT) are employer contributions. State Disability Insurance (SDI) and Personal Income Tax (PIT) are withheld from employees' wages.

What is USA link tax? ›

Link tax legislation generally requires large digital companies like Google and Meta to pay a fee to journalism outlets for the privilege of showing or linking to news content on their platforms.

What is the tax benefit linkage? ›

Tax-benefit linkage is the key element that distinguishes Social Security contributions from other forms of labor income taxation. There are, however, many different instituti- onal settings which can lead to various degrees of tax-benefit linkage.

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