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Google News may shut over EU plans to charge tax for links

Google News may shut over EU plans to charge tax for links

Switzerland : Google’s top news executive has refused to rule out shutting down Google News in EU countries, as the search engine faces a battle with Brussels over plans to charge a “link tax” for using news stories.

Richard Gingras, the search engine’s vice-president of news, said while “it’s not desirable to shut down services” the company was deeply concerned about the current proposals, which are designed to compensate struggling news publishers if snippets of their articles appear in search results.

He told the Guardian that the future of Google News could depend on whether the EU was willing to alter the phrasing of the legislation. “We can’t make a decision until we see the final language,” he said.

He pointed out the last time a government attempted to charge Google for links, in 2014 in Spain, the company responded by shutting down Google News in the country. Spain passed a law requiring aggregation sites to pay for news links, in a bid to prop up struggling print news outlets. Google responded by closing the service for Spanish consumers, which he said prompted a fall in traffic to Spanish news websites.

“We would not like to see that happen in Europe,” said Gingras. “Right now what we want to do is work with stakeholders.”

Traditional news publishers have a difficult relationship with Google, which they blame for sucking up much of the advertising revenue which used to prop up print newspapers. However, many are also heavily dependent on Google News to send millions of readers to their websites, which can help boost digital revenues.

Google has been lobbying hard against the relevant piece of European legislation which would introduce the “link tax”, known as Article 11, and its sister legislation Article 13, which is designed to ensure content creators are paid for material uploaded to sites such as the Google-owned YouTube.