Canada’s Trudeau pans Google and Meta for ‘bullying’ to stop bill

Tech giants say a Canadian bill that would push companies to pay news publishers for content will hurt their business.

Justin Trudeau, dressed in suit and tie, leans his head on his hand, against a backdrop of Canadian flags.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called out Google and Meta for 'bullying tactics' as they try to head off new regulatory measures in Canada [File: Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

The technology companies Alphabet and Meta are using “bullying tactics” against a Canadian push aimed at ensuring financial support for news publishers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.

The proposed legislation is designed to compel internet giants like the Alphabet-owned Google and Meta’s Facebook to negotiate commercial deals with news outlets and pay publishers for their content.

The United States-based technology companies say proposals in the bill, dubbed the Online News Act, are unsustainable for their businesses.

Google and Facebook have run tests this year to limit some users from viewing or sharing news content in Canada as a potential response if the legislation is passed into law in its current form.

“The fact that these internet giants would rather cut off Canadians’ access to local news than pay their fair share is a real problem, and now they’re resorting to bullying tactics to try and get their way,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “It’s not going to work.”

The bill, introduced in April 2022, is similar to a ground-breaking law passed in Australia in 2021.

Google said, however, the rules in Canada’s bill are more stringent than those enacted in Australia and Europe. It has proposed amendments “to align with international norms” and address the company’s concerns.

“We’ve come to the table with reasonable and pragmatic solutions that would make the bill work the way it’s intended to and increase our investments in the Canadian news ecosystem,” said Google spokesperson Shay Purdy, reacting to Trudeau’s remarks.

The bill “has some serious problems that make it unworkable for our products and services”, Purdy added.

The legislation passed Canada’s House of Commons in December and is in the unelected upper chamber of the parliament, which rarely blocks legislation cleared by the lower house.

Canada’s media industry wants tighter regulation of tech companies to prevent them from elbowing news businesses out of the online advertising market.

“The various internet giants, like Meta, are posting every year record profits while, at the same time, local independent news is struggling across this country,” Trudeau said. “We will continue to make sure that these incredibly profitable corporations contribute to strengthening our democracy.”

Last week, Meta said the bill was fundamentally flawed. The company says news has no economic value for its platforms.

Source: Reuters