Key questions remain largely unanswered over Google’s response to Bill C-18 and its implications for Canadian and local news media Canadian Heritage Committee MeetingToday.
Sabrina Geremia, vice president and country manager for Google Canada, reiterated that Google’s decision to temporarily limit access to news content in response Bill C-18 It is only during the two-hour “one product test” that he faced harsh questioning from committee members.
Google’s public policy manager, Jason J. Key was the technical pillar of support for Geremia, but the committee members were not interested in hearing from him.
Halfway through the meeting, both Key and Jeremiah are sworn in, as the committee members become more and more frustrated with their vague answers.
Tests, however, remained the silver bullet answer for Jeremiah. She revealed that the tests are standard and common, and that Google runs more than 11,500 tests each year, affecting less than 4 percent of Canadians each year. He also criticized Bill C-18 for being vague, putting an unspecified price on links available to Canadians, and requiring Google to pay a large number of organizations that don’t even make the news. “It creates maximum uncertainty, imperils voluntary agreements, and takes us further from the shared goal of supporting the US and Canada.”
In a rather awkward exchange, Key said the bill would favor large publishers, as Google would naturally lean toward those who do “longform thoughtful investigative journalism”, not “shortform low quality journalism”. To which a committee member asked, “You’re suggesting that Google is solely a source of low-quality journalism?”
Jeremiah said the news is still generally available to Canadians and that the trial is only being conducted in response to a radical change in the legal landscape to add to Canada.
But the trivialization of the so-called tests further incensed committee members, who claimed that four per cent equated to 1.2 million Canadians who have been affected by these tests.
“Today, we learn that four percent of the population had their democratic rights pushed aside. You might have tested me on Google, I might be one of the 1.2 million who suddenly has to do a Google search. I can’t get it. Is it fair to me? Or other Canadians? I don’t think it’s fair. You’re a $1.3 trillion company. And I think you’ve overstepped your bounds,” Conservative MP Kevin Waugh he said.
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather also highlighted that the fact that Google’s senior leadership is aware of the test is an indication that the test is very unusual and far from “normal” or the normal course of business. When asked if those tests would be disclosed, Jeremiah replied that “the team will get back to you.”
However, as soon as the hearing began, Google issued a open letterWonderfully written by Gerimia, to help Canadians understand what the tests say. read the letter; “Google runs thousands of real-world tests each year as a way to understand new features and changes. The current tests explore the potential impacts of Search and Discover results should Bill C-18 become law in its current form.
Furthermore, while Geremia managed to deflect most of the questions as that was not her area of expertise, she confidently refuted claims by the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Unifor Media Council that media workers were disproportionately affected by these trials, block Martin Champoux of Québécois reported.
Committee members also questioned Geremia on Google’s failure to produce all internal and external communications regarding the matter, to which she replied that the request was too broad and short notice. Until today, Google only produced publicly available documents.
The controversial national trial is due to end next week.