Google is prepared to ruthlessly shut down its news service if it is stung by sweeping new European internet laws

 

  • Google's top news executive Richard Gingras told The Guardian that Google won't rule out shutting down Google News in EU countries if the European Parliament enforces a so-called "link tax."
  • The "link tax" refers to Article 11, a piece of legislation backed by the European Parliament in September, which would require companies like Google to hold licences for linking to publishers.
  • Gingras said that while it is "not desirable" to shut down services, Google is concerned by the legislation in its current form.

Google's top news executive has hinted that the company is prepared to shut down Google News in Europe if it is stung by new EU legislation.

Richard Gingras, Google's vice president of news, told The Guardian that he won't rule out switching off the news service in response to the EU's proposed crackdown on online copyright infringement, referred to as the "link tax."

The "link tax" refers to Article 11, a piece of legislation backed by the EU in September, which would force companies such as Google to hold a licence to link to publishers.

The legislation including Article 11 was proposed in July, but was rejected following criticism that it was too sweeping. Article 11 was amended so that hyperlinks to articles with an "individual word" description would not be penalised, and journalists would be entitled to remuneration by their publishers if their articles are used by news aggregators. The legislation faces a final vote in early 2019.

Related: Google employees stage worldwide walkout

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Google employees stage worldwide walkout
Gente se concentra frente a la sede de Google en Londres, jueves 1 de noviembre de 2018. Cientos de ingenieros y otros trabajadores de Google abandonen sus puestos de trabajo por la mañana en protesta por el trato indulgente que el gigante de internet dio a directivos acusados de una conducta sexual inapropiada. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
Google employees outside its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, Thursday Nov. 1, 2018. Hundreds of Google engineers and other workers walked off the job Thursday morning to protest the internet company’s lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct. Employees were seen staging walkouts at offices in Tokyo, Singapore, London, and Dublin. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)
Google employees outside its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, Thursday Nov. 1, 2018. Hundreds of Google engineers and other workers walked off the job Thursday morning to protest the internet company’s lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct. Employees were seen staging walkouts at offices in Tokyo, Singapore, London, and Dublin. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)
Google employees outside its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, Thursday Nov. 1, 2018. Hundreds of Google engineers and other workers walked off the job Thursday morning to protest the internet company’s lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct. Employees were seen staging walkouts at offices in Tokyo, Singapore, London, and Dublin. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)
Google employees outside its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, Thursday Nov. 1, 2018. Hundreds of Google engineers and other workers walked off the job Thursday morning to protest the internet company’s lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct. Employees were seen staging walkouts at offices in Tokyo, Singapore, London, and Dublin. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)
People gather outside the Google offices in Granary Sqaure, London, Thursday Nov. 1, 2018. Hundreds of Google engineers and other workers walked off the job Thursday morning to protest the internet company’s lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct. Employees were seen staging walkouts at offices in Tokyo, Singapore, London, and Dublin. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
Google staff stage a walkout at the company's UK headquarters in London on November 1, 2018 as part of a global campaign over the US tech giant's handling of sexual harassment. - Hundreds of employees walked out of Google's European headquarters in Dublin on Thursday as part of a global campaign over the US tech giant's handling of sexual harassment that saw similar protests in London and Singapore. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Google staff stage a walkout at the company's UK headquarters in London on November 1, 2018 as part of a global campaign over the US tech giant's handling of sexual harassment. - Hundreds of employees walked out of Google's European headquarters in Dublin on Thursday as part of a global campaign over the US tech giant's handling of sexual harassment that saw similar protests in London and Singapore. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Google staff stage a walkout at the company's UK headquarters in London on November 1, 2018 as part of a global campaign over the US tech giant's handling of sexual harassment. - Hundreds of employees walked out of Google's European headquarters in Dublin on Thursday as part of a global campaign over the US tech giant's handling of sexual harassment that saw similar protests in London and Singapore. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Google staff stage a walkout at the company's UK headquarters in London on November 1, 2018 as part of a global campaign over the US tech giant's handling of sexual harassment. - Hundreds of employees walked out of Google's European headquarters in Dublin on Thursday as part of a global campaign over the US tech giant's handling of sexual harassment that saw similar protests in London and Singapore. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Google employees at its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, join others from around the world walking out of their offices in protest over claims of sexual harassment, gender inequality and systemic racism at the tech giant. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Google offices in Granary Square, London where some members of staff staged a walkout as a part of a protest over the company's treatment of women. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Google employees at its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, join others from around the world walking out of their offices in protest over claims of sexual harassment, gender inequality and systemic racism at the tech giant. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Google employees at its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, join others from around the world walking out of their offices in protest over claims of sexual harassment, gender inequality and systemic racism at the tech giant. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Google employees at its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, join others from around the world walking out of their offices in protest over claims of sexual harassment, gender inequality and systemic racism at the tech giant. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Google employees at its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, join others from around the world walking out of their offices in protest over claims of sexual harassment, gender inequality and systemic racism at the tech giant. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Google employees at its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, join others from around the world walking out of their offices in protest over claims of sexual harassment, gender inequality and systemic racism at the tech giant. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Google employees at its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, join others from around the world walking out of their offices in protest over claims of sexual harassment, gender inequality and systemic racism at the tech giant. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
People gather next to the Google office to attend the Google Walkout in Dublin, Ireland November 1, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Twitter/Cathal Curry/REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.
People gather next to the Google office to attend the Google Walkout in Dublin, Ireland November 1, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Twitter/Cathal Curry/REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.
Workers stand outside the Google offices after walking out as part of a global protest over workplace issues in Dublin, Ireland, November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Workers stand outside Google's European headquarters after walking out as part of a global protest over workplace issues, in Dublin, Ireland, November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Hello from Google in London. A groups just came out for the #googlewalkout https://t.co/nTeZ9rSAKC
Confirming: the Google Walkout is real and deeply inspiring. Hundreds of people are demanding structural change, no… https://t.co/vUlZmGOfHB
Google workers here in Dublin walk out in protest against sexism, racism and unchecked executive power in the compa… https://t.co/WvjH8YAyQF
Google employees in Dublin starting their walkout in protest at the recent revelations about the treatment of women… https://t.co/fZQrbBziUT
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Gingras said the future of Google News in Europe will depend on whether the EU is willing to change the language around Article 11. "We can't make a decision until we see the final language," he said.

Gingras added that while it is "not desirable to shut down services," Google is concerned by the proposals as they stand at the moment.

He also pointed out that this would not be the first time Google has shuttered its news service.

In 2014, the Spanish government introduced similar legislation forcing aggregation sites to pay for links to news articles, and Google responded by shutting down its news service in Spain, where it is still inactive. Gringas told the Guardian this led to a fall in traffic to Spanish news websites.

"We would not like to see that happen in Europe," Gingras told The Guardian. "Right now what we want to do is work with stakeholders."

He emphasized that Google News is not a massively profitable part of the company's business, but is a valuable social tool for users.

"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," Gringas said.

Related: Google CEO Sundar Pichai

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Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., pauses during an event at Google's Kings Cross office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. After being criticized for not paying its fair share of British tax, Alphabet Inc.s Google unit is trying to show its a good corporate citizen by offering five hours of free digital skills training to all U.K. residents. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., listens to a speaker during an event at Google's Kings Cross office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. After being criticized for not paying its fair share of British tax, Alphabet Inc.s Google unit is trying to show its a good corporate citizen by offering five hours of free digital skills training to all U.K. residents. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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This isn't the first time Google has pushed back against the EU's new copyright legislation. Along with Article 11 the EU introduced Article 13, which would require companies like Reddit, Facebook, and Google-owned YouTube to monitor and remove copyright infringement on their platforms.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki pushed back against Article 13 in a Financial Times op-ed last week, saying EU residents were at risk of being "cut off" from videos on the site.

Google declined to comment when contacted by Business Insider.

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