Canada’s proposed Information Intermediaries Act gives India’s digital media a boost

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A recent Canadian order on information intermediaries like Google has given Indian newspapers and their digital platforms a big boost in their fight against Google’s monopoly exploitation of their news content. Prominent Indian newspapers and their digital editions have represented against said abuse of its monopoly and position by the tech giant.

Google derives huge advertising revenue from the content generated by the digital editions of these newspapers. However, there is no fair reimbursement or revenue sharing by Google in this regard, causing huge financial loss to news publishers in India.

Publishers and governments in many parts of the democratic world are becoming aware of this exploitation by Google and are taking proactive steps to ensure fair play. The judgment in Canada is a step in that direction that resonates in India and many other parts of the world. Google is under scrutiny for anticompetitive practices in Australia, France, Canada and the EU.

Such orders would encourage and empower Indian lawmakers and the ICC to implement fair play and also support the growth of media and real news in India at a time when global search engines can be manipulated to create perceptions negative on India through fake news and inherent bias.

According to the Canadian Order, an Online News Act was created to regulate digital news intermediaries with a view to improving fairness in the Canadian digital news market. The law applies to digital information intermediaries and giants like Google that have a significant imbalance of bargaining power compared to information companies, depending on certain factors, such as whether the intermediary occupies a leading position in the market. The order includes provisions for fairly compensating news organizations for news made available through the intermediary.

The proposed rule would ensure that platforms such as Facebook and Google negotiate commercial deals and fairly compensate news publishers for their content. It may be noted that Australia had also passed a groundbreaking law last year. The law would require Google and Facebook to pay original news publishers for content on their platforms.

India’s top newspapers and their digital editions are represented by the DNPA in India, in its similar fight against Google for fair play in India. The order in Canada came at a time when CCI issued a notice to Google based on a complaint filed by DNPA with CCI in this regard.

Canada’s “Online News Act” will require digital platforms that have a bargaining imbalance to enter into fair deals with news publishers, who would then be subject to scrutiny or assessment by a regulator and whether such deals do not materialize, the platforms would have to go through final offer arbitration processes overseen by the Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications regulator.

It may be noted that the Indian Competition Commission (CCI) ordered an investigation against Google for alleged abuse of its dominant position in the digital advertising market following a complaint filed by the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA). DNPA members include Jagran New Media (Dainik Jagaran Group), Amar Ujala, Dainik Bhaskar, India Today, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Times of India, Eenadu, Malayalam Manorama, ABP Network, Zee Media, Mathrabhumi, Hindu, NDTV, Lokmat, express network, etc.

In an order dated January 7, the commission ordered the Director General (DG) to investigate the matter under the provisions of Section 26(1) of the Act. The commission also ordered the DG to complete the investigation and submit the investigation report within 60 days from the date of receipt of this order.

“The commission is of the prima facie opinion that Google violated the provisions of section 4(2)(a) of the act, which deserves an investigation. In addition, the informant also alleged that the aforementioned conduct of Google results in a violation of the provisions of Section 4(2)(b)(ii) as well as Section 4(2)(c) of the Act. The CEO may also appropriately review such allegations during investigation,” the ICC said in an order.

DNPA has brought a complaint against Alphabet Inc., Google LLC, Google India Private Limited and Google Ireland Limited (Google/OPs) under Section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act 2002, alleging violation of article 4 of the law.

The association estimates that more than 50% of the total traffic on news websites is routed through Google and, being the dominant player in this field, Google, by means of its algorithms, determines which news website is discovered through research. He further asserted that the content produced by news media companies creates the context for the audience to interact with the advertiser; however, online search engines (Google) end up leveraging revenue/returns much more than publishers.

It can be noted that Google is the major player in the digital advertising space, and that it unilaterally decides the amount to be paid to publishers for content created by them, as well as the conditions under which said amounts must be paid. Sources said the DNPA believes Google has abused its dominant market position and breached various sections of the Competition Act 2002.


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