Media coalition asks the feds to investigate Google’s removal of California news links

The News/Media Alliance, formerly the Newspaper Association of America, has asked US federal agencies to investigate the matter. Google removes links to California news media outlets. Google’s tactic is a response to the proposed California Journalism Protection Act (CJPA), which would require it and other tech companies to pay for links to news content from California-based publishers.

News/Media Alliance, which represents Over 2,200 publishers, sent letters for Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission and Attorney General of the State of California Tuesday. It says the takedown “appears to be coercive or retaliatory, driven by Google’s opposition to pending legislative action in Sacramento.”

The CJPA would require Google and other tech platforms to pay California media outlets in exchange for links. The proposed bill passed State Assembly last year.

One blog post Last week, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships, Jaffer Zaidi, warned that the CJPA is “the wrong approach to supporting journalism” (because Google’s current approach hasn’t completely ruined the industry!). Zaidi said the CJPA would also “disadvantage small publishers and limit consumers’ access to a diverse local media ecosystem.” Nothing to see here, folks: just your friendly neighborhood multi-trillion dollar company looking for the little guy!

Google described the removal of the link as a test to see how the bill would affect its platform:

“To prepare for the possible effects of CJPA, we are beginning a short-term trial for a small portion of California users,” Zaidi wrote. “The testing process involves removing links to California news sites potentially covered by the CJPA in order to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience. Until there is clarity on California’s regulatory environment, we are also holding back further investments in the California news ecosystem, including new partnerships through the Google News Showcase, our product and licensing program for news organizations, and the planned expansion of the Google News Initiative.”

In its letter, The News/Media Alliance lists several laws it believes Google may violate with its “short-term” takedown. Potential federal violations include the Lanham Act, the Sherman Antitrust Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act. The letter to California’s AG cites the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, regulations against false advertising and misrepresentation, the California Consumer Privacy Act and California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL).

“Importantly, Google did not provide additional information about how many Californians will be affected, how Californians are selected to be blocked from news access, which publications will be affected, how long the news blackout will last, and whether access will be blocked entirely. or simply because of content that Google doesn’t particularly like,” News/Media Alliance President/CEO Danielle Coffey wrote in a letter to the DOJ and FTC. “Because of these unknowns, Google’s unilateral decision to block access to news sites for Californians violates the law there are many ways it can.”

Google has had a mixed record dealing with similar legislation. He Google pulled News out of Spain will charge publishers a license fee for seven years in response to local copyright laws. However, he signed About $150 million worth of deals to pay Australian publishers and withdrew Threats to remove news from search results in Canada instead spent the $74 million required by the Online News Act.

Google has made more than 73 billion dollars in profit in 2023. The company currently has a market cap of $1.94 trillion.

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