Google, a $1.97 trillion company, is protesting California’s plan to pay journalists

Google, the search giant that brought in more than $73 billion in profit last year, a California bill that would require it and other platforms to pay media outlets. The company announced that it was beginning a “short-term test” that will block links to local California news sources for a “small percentage” of users in the state.

The move is in response to the California Journalism Preservation Act, a bill that would require Google, Meta and other platforms California publishers fees in exchange for links. The proposed law, which passed the state Assembly last year, amounts to a “link tax,” according to Google VP of News Partnerships Jaffer Zaidi.

“If passed, CJPA may result in significant changes to the services we can offer Californians and the traffic we can provide to California publishers,” Zaidi writes. But though the bill has yet to become law, Google is opting to give publishers and users in California a taste of what those changes could look like.

The company says it will temporarily test blocking links to California news sources that would be covered under the law in order “to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.” Zaidi didn’t say how large the test would be or how long it would last. Google is also halting all its spending on California newsrooms, including “new partnerships through Google News Showcase, our product and licensing program for news organizations, and planned expansions of the Google News Initiative.”

Google isn’t the first company to use hardball tactics in the face of new laws that aim to force tech companies to pay for journalism. Meta pulled news from Facebook and Instagram in after a similar law passed and has to do the same in California. (Meta did eventually cut deals to pay publishers in Australia after a 2021 law went into effect, but said last month it those partnerships.)

Google has a mixed track record on the issue, It pulled its News service out of Spain in protest of local copyright laws that would have required licensing fees. But the company worth about $150 million to pay Australian publishers. It also eventually threats to pull news from search results in Canada, and forked over about $74 million. That may sound like a lot, but those amounts are still just a tiny fraction of the $10 – $12 billion that estimate Google should be paying publishers.

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