Google could pause its Google News Initiative

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As we know, Google is slowly piling more dirt onto Journalism’s casket. Its actions are proving that it really doesn’t care about journalists, and it’s not shy about throwing them under the bus to make a point. According to a new report, Google threatened to pause its Google News Initiative in response to its ongoing struggle in California.

Let’s catch you up first

To bring you up to speed, Google is currently going through a war against California. The state proposed a bill that would force Google to pay a “link tax” to show links to California-based news publications. This is something that other regions like Canada, Australia, and Spain have attempted.

As a response to this bill, Google threatened to remove links to California-based news sites from Google search results. Obviously, since Google is the largest search engine in the world, this would absolutely ruin the ad revenue that these sites get. Many, if not all of them, will need to shut down.

Google could pause the Google News Initiative

In another shady power move, Google has threatened to pause its News Initiative in more areas. The Google News Initiative provided funding to hundreds of non-profit news organizations around the world. This is a $300 million that helped many publications stay in business. Last month, as a part of its initial threat to California, Google also said that it would stop helping California newsrooms through the initiative. As if the company wasn’t already doing enough damage to California journalism.

Well, Google is now expanding its threat, according to a new report. The California senate passed the ad tax bill on May 8th. Not long after that, Google began reaching out to several non-profit organizations outside of California letting them know that it may pause future investments in them as far as the initiative goes. We’re not sure how many organizations Google reached out to.

This is troubling because this doesn’t only include publications based in California, as the company is thinking about suspending the news initiative nationwide.

So, in order to battle the bill in California, Google is threatening to hinder non-profit news organizations across the nation. Obviously, this doesn’t sit well with anyone. One bit of good news is the fact that the company could potentially only pause future investments in these companies. Money that was previously promised to these organizations will still be distributed to them. That’s not quite great news, but it’s something.

What is this ad tax bill?

State Senator Steve Glazer proposed a bill (SB-1327) earlier this year that would essentially tax a company a “data extraction tax” for using links from news sites in search results. The money from the tax would go on to help fund these publications. It will provide tax credits to these organizations and help them sustain and hire more writers in the already diminishing journalistic climate.

This bill wouldn’t only take place for Google, but it would also affect Meta. While the bill would have a positive effect on the journalism industry, there could be some downsides to it. In an extended letter to Senator Anna Cabellero, Senator Brian Jones, and members of the Senate Committee, Stephanie Do expressed her opposition to the bill.

In the letter, she stated that the tax bill could burden the companies affected (companies like Google). This burden could trickle down to the products that the companies offer. In the letter, she referred to the tax as a “new, controversial, and untested ‘fee’” on data extraction transactions.

“On its face, the bill appears to be targeted with the negative impact limited to a few technology companies. Unfortunately, the legislation will force impacted companies to pass on the increased costs from this new “fee” on to other businesses and consumers
and will place California at a competitive disadvantage with respect to encouraging businesses to maintain or expand operations in California.”

Something needs to be done

At this point there’s no telling what’s going to happen. If Google follows through on its threat, the journalism industry could basically be killed in America. Other search engines like Bing also deliver links in their search results, but Google holds the crown as “King of Search Engines.” In March this year, Bing was visited about 1.4 billion times based, on a report. In the same time period, Google was visited about 85.5 billion times.

It’s important to note that Stephanie Do does have a point about the potential cost burden to consumers. However, the journalism industry is slowly dying and has been for years. Google’s search algorithm has been on the fritz for a while, as the company has been making hundreds of changes. That’s had a pernicious effect on journalism over the years.

Adding fuel to the fire is Google’s new AI Overviews. This is a new feature that Google released to the masses. It gives users an AI-generated overview of what they search for. So, rather than going to a site and contributing to its traffic and ad revenue, users can read the short-and-sweet overview. What makes this worse is the fact that Google is planning on putting ads on the overviews. This basically redirects the revenue stream away from news sites and lets the company keep more of the revenue.

That’s a MAJOR slap to the face of publication sites. So, Google seems to be attacking the journalism industry from all sides. Having a bill that forces that very company to provide compensation to the news publications that it’s screwing over shouldn’t be too much to ask.

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