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Commons Committee Summons Google Execs on News Links Blocking

A House of Commons committee decided on Feb. 28 to summon Google executives to testify over the company’s decision to test the blocking of news links in response to the Liberal government’s Bill C-18.

“I think it’s important for Parliament to take a look and see what Google is doing, I don’t particularly like their track record on this,” said Liberal MP Chris Bittle at the committee meeting.

“It’s a company that has not necessarily been responsible, but at the same time does not want any regulation.”

Bittle’s motion to summon Google executives to testify on March 6 was adopted unanimously and seeks to hear from Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

MPs debated the use of “summoning” instead of “inviting” to request the presence of the executives, given the potential implications if they do not show up.

The committee clerk explained that a summons issued by a committee only applies to individuals located inside Canada. A failure to appear can be referred to the House of Commons, which would then decide if the summoned individual is in contempt.

At least one of the executives summoned is presumably in Canada and that’s Sabrina Geremia, the vice president and country manager for Google in Canada.

Bittle’s motion also requires Google parent company Alphabet to submit all records pertaining to its action plans regarding Bill C-18, as well as the list of news organizations that were recently blocked.

Google is opposed to the Trudeau government’s Bill C-18, the Online Streaming Act, which seeks to compel online tech giants to strike ad revenue sharing deals with Canadian media outlets.

The company says the bill is “overly broad” and it could impact the use of its products in Canada.

Google started testing some countermeasures recently by blocking access to news content through its platform, saying that less than 4 percent of Canadian users were impacted.

“Google’s attempt to try to censor and to try to block certain sites is something certainly that is backfiring,” said NDP MP Peter Julian.

“I’ve heard more negative comments about Google in the last few days than I’ve heard in many years.”

The Epoch Times contacted Google for comment but didn’t immediately hear back.

Another tech giant Meta, owner of Facebook, has also implied it would take retaliatory measures if Bill-18 passes. The bill has cleared the House and is now in the Senate.

It had blocked access to news viewing and sharing on its platform in Australia in 2021 as the country’s government was working on a similar bill.

The embargo was lifted after the social media company and the government stuck a deal on the piece of legislation.

The Liberals seek to pass Bill C-18 to support a fledging news sector as advertisers have shifted to social media.

Critics of the bill say it has been lobbied for by major media and it will not make the press more free, as claimed by the government, and instead make it dependent on big tech.

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