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EU: “Link Tax” may shutter Google News abroad

 |  November 19, 2018

A “link tax” might mean the end of Google News in the EU.

Richard Gingras, the search engine’s vice-president of news, said while “it’s not desirable to shut down services,” the company isn’t happy with Brussels’ current proposal to charge a link tax for using news stories. The move aims to to help struggling news publishers so that they’re paid if their articles appear in search results.

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

Gingras added that Spain enforced a similar tax in 2014, leading the company to shut down Google News in the country. Gingras claims that caused a fall in traffic to Spanish news sites.

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

In addition, Gingras noted that Google News is not a direct profit-making business for the company.

“There’s no advertising in Google News. It is not a revenue-generating product to Google. We think it’s valuable as a service to society. We are proud to have it as part of the stable of properties that people have,” he said.

This isn’t the only new legislation Google might have to contend with in the EU. Earlier this year, it was reportedthat the European Commission is at work on a new proposal that aims to shape how online platforms — spanning eCommerce and mobile apps — rank search results.

The draft regulation targets what might be seen as harmful trading practices and states that “online intermediation services can hold superior bargaining power over their business users, enabling them to behave unilaterally in a way that is capable of harming the businesses using them.”

In July, Google was hit with a US$5.1 billion antitrust fine from the EU over an alleged abuse of the Android operating system. EU commissioners claimed that Google abused its position with the Android OS, which is on more than 80% of the smartphones around the globe, by favoring its own mobile apps and services including its search engine.

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