Today, the House of Commons Heritage Committee agreed to summon Google executives to testify in a two hour meeting on Monday Mar. 6 regarding the censoring of news content by Google in Canada.
Last week, reports from The Canadian Press revealed that Google is blocking some Canadian users from viewing news content in what the company says is a test run of a potential response to the Liberal government’s online news bill, Bill C-18.
The Online News Act would require tech giants such as Google and Meta to negotiate deals that would compensate Canadian media companies for republishing their content on their platforms.
Google said on Feb. 22 that it will temporarily limit access to news content for under four per cent of its Canadian users as it assesses possible responses to the bill. All types of news content are being affected by the test, including content created by Canadian broadcasters and newspapers. It will run for about five weeks.
During today’s meeting, Liberal MP Chris Bittle called the move by Google “troubling”, and added that it’s “important that we stand up for Canadians.”
Bittle also referred to Facebook’s move in Australia, where it blocked Australian users from sharing or viewing news content on the platform, calling it an intimidation tactic against Australians and their parliament.
The Heritage Committee summoned Kent Walker, president of global affairs and chief legal officer of Alphabet, Richard Gingras, global vice president of news, and Sabrina Geremia, vice president and country manager of Google Canada.
The committee also ordered Alphabet inc and all of its subsidiaries, including Google, to provide all external or internal communication, including emails and texts, related to actions or options considered in relation to Bill C-18, as well as a list of all news organizations blocked by Google in Canada, and requested this information be delivered by 5 p.m. on Mar. 2.
NDP MP Peter Julian added that Google’s actions are irresponsible. He said he doesn’t think anyone in Canada should support this move, and that it’s a “lack of respect towards Canadians.” Julian said it’s “crucial” that Google is questioned on this matter.