The House of Commons Heritage Committee agreed to summon Google executives to testify in a two-hour meeting on Monday, March 6, regarding the censoring of news content by Google in Canada.
Last week, reports The Canadian Press learned that Google is blocking some Canadian users from viewing news content in what the company says is a test of a possible 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 compensate Canadian media companies for republishing their content on their platforms.
Google said on February 22 that it would temporarily limit access to news content by less than four per cent of its Canadian users as it assessed potential reactions to the bill. The test is affecting all types of news content, including content produced by Canadian broadcasters and newspapers. This will last for about five weeks.
During today’s meeting, Liberal MP Chris Bittle called Google’s move “disturbing”, and said it “It is important that we stand up for Canadians.”
Bit also referred to Facebook’s move in Australia, where it blocked Australian user from sharing or viewing news content on the platform, calling it an intimidation tactic against Australians and their Parliament.
Heritage Committee summons Kent Walker, Richard Gingras, President of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer, Alphabet, Global Vice President of News and Sabrina Geremia, Vice President and Country Manager, Google Canada.
The committee ordered Alphabet Inc. and all of its subsidiaries, including Google, to provide all external or internal communications relating to actions or alternatives considered with respect to Bill C-18, as well as a list of all news reports. The organizations have been blocked by Google in Canada, and have been requested to deliver this information by 5 p.m. on March 2.
NDP MP Peter Julian said Google’s actions were irresponsible. He added that he does not think anyone in Canada should support the move, and that it shows “a lack of respect for Canadians”. Julian said it is “important” that Google be questioned on the matter.