Google is at loggerheads with Brussels over a proposed plan to introduce a ‘link tax’, which is aimed at compensating struggling news publishing websites if Google News uses snippets of their articles.
The company is lobbying to stop the proposed tax, known as Article 11, and its sister legislation, Article 13. The new tax is designed to ensure that content creators are paid for their material uploaded to sites such as Google-owned YouTube.
Richard Gingras, VP of Google News, told the Guardian that the future of Google News will depend on whether the EU was willing to alter the phrasing of the legislation. Gingras said that the company won’t rule out shutting down services in the EU. He said: “We can’t make a decision until we see the final language.”
According to the Guardian, traditional media outlets believe Google is responsible for taking much of the advertising revenue, which used to support print newspapers. But many of these outlets are also heavily dependent on Google News to drive traffic to their website, as it can help boost digital revenues.
New Websites Could See Drop in Traffic From Shutdown
Previously, Spain tried to charge Google for links in 2014. The company responded by shutting down Google News in the country, which Gingras says caused a fall in traffic to Spanish news websites. Gingras said: “We would not like to see that happen in Europe. Right now what we want to do is work with stakeholders.”
He claims that news sites and consumers would feel a negative impact if the proposed tax goes ahead, saying that new sites would struggle to find an audience while consumers could end up seeing a reduced number of new stories in search results.
If the proposals go ahead, it is likely that the UK will be subject to the legislation if it is introduced before the end of any post-Brexit transition period.
Gingras was keen to emphasise Google News was not directly a profit-making business for the company, but conceded it encouraged users to spend more time on the company’s website. He added that Google does not put any advertising in Google News.