News publisher groups are calling on the state to investigate Google for blocking several California news outlets

News publisher groups are calling on the state to investigate Google for blocking several California news outlets

An organization representing more than 2,000 news publishers sent a letter Tuesday to federal agencies, urging them to launch an investigation into Google after the tech giant began removing links to California-based news outlets.

The move from Google, which drew a swift backlash, comes amid proposed legislation that would require tech companies to pay for news content.

The News/Media Alliance, which represents US newspapers and online publications, said it had sent a letter to the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and the California Attorney General to ask for an investigation into whether Google violated any laws when it limited the ability of Californians. to access news websites from last week’s Google search.

On Friday, Google announced it had begun removing links to California news websites for some users in response to a bill that would force Google, Meta and others to pay news outlets for their content. The Mountain View-based search giant said it launched a “test” to measure “the impact of legislation on our product experience.”

The letter asks federal and state agencies to investigate whether Google’s actions violate the Lanham Act, the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act as well as the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, the prohibition against false and misrepresentative advertising, the California Consumer Privacy Act, and the Non-Competition Law Fair California (UCL).

“Google has not released further details about how many Californians will be affected, how Californians who will be denied news access are selected, what publications will be affected, how long the forced news deletion will continue, and whether access will be completely or only blocked. for content that Google doesn’t like,” the letter said. “Because of these unknowns, there are many ways that Google’s unilateral decision to shut down access to news websites for Californians could violate [various] laws.”

In a statement, News/Media Alliance president and chief executive Danielle Coffey said that Google has too much power.

“No company should be allowed to have sole control of information so that it can make decisions that are detrimental to society, as Google did in California,” Coffey said. “We call on government agencies to take action to address the various ways these activities may violate existing antitrust laws and other relevant laws.”

In a statement Tuesday, a Google spokesperson said, “These baseless claims deflect the real issue with the [California Journalism Preservation Act] — this bill is unworkable and will hurt small, local publishers to take advantage of large, outside hedge funds state. ”

California’s Journalism Preservation Act requires digital platforms like Google and Meta to pay “journalistic use fees” to eligible news outlets when they use their content alongside digital ads.

“We have proposed a reasonable alternative to the CJPA that will increase our support for California’s news ecosystem and support Californians’ access to news,” the Google spokesperson said. “We have been saying for a long time that the CJPA is not the right approach, and we have taken responsible and transparent steps to prepare the possibility of its implementation.

Earlier, California State Senate President Pro-Tempore Mike McGuire, co-author of the California Journalism Protection Act, called the action an act of “bullying” and an “abuse of power.”

“This is a dangerous threat by Google that not only sets a terrible example here in America, but puts public safety at risk for Californians who rely on news to inform us of life-threatening emergencies and local public safety incidents,” he wrote. in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “This is a breach of public trust and we call on Google Executives to respond to this action.”

Charles F. Champion, president and CEO of the California News Publishers Association, said Google’s move has stifled California news.

“The fact that one company can shut down how 90% of people find content online to achieve their own political and business goals shows how much policymakers need to step up and act now,” he wrote Friday at X . “Google is not above the law, and they are should not be allowed to act as if they did.”

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