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Google's news-blocking test in Canada a 'terrible mistake', says PM Trudeau

By Ismail Shakil and Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday it was a "terrible mistake" for Alphabet Inc's Google to block news content in reaction to a government bill that would compel the tech giant to pay publishers in Canada for news content.

Google said this week it was testing blocking some Canadian users' access to news as a potential response to the Trudeau government's "Online News Act," which is expected to be passed into law.

Trudeau, speaking to reporters in Toronto, said the blocking of news in Canada was an issue "bothering" him.

"It really surprises me that Google has decided that they'd rather prevent Canadians from accessing news than actually paying journalists for the work they do," he said.

"I think that's a terrible mistake and I know Canadians expect journalists to be well paid for the work they do.”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The "Online News Act," which Trudeau's Liberal government introduced last year, created rules for platforms like Meta's Facebook and Google to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers.

Facebook has also raised concerns about the legislation and warned it might be forced to block news-sharing on its platform.

The legislation passed Canada's House of Commons in December and is currently in the unelected upper chamber of the parliament, which rarely blocks legislation the lower house clears.

The rules aim to help the Canadian news industry, which has called for regulation of tech firms, citing growing financial losses while Facebook and Google steadily gain greater market share of online advertising income.

Ottawa's proposal is similar to a ground-breaking law that Australia passed in 2021, which too triggered threats from Google and Facebook to curtail their services. Both eventually struck deals with Australian media companies after a series of amendments to the legislation were offered.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil and Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Josie Kao)