Google could shutter news operations in EU over 'link tax': What to know

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A proposal being considered by the European Union, dubbed a “link tax,” has search giant Google reevaluating some of its operations in the region.

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Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of news, told The Guardian over the weekend that the search giant may shut its Google News operations in Europe because of the proposed tax.

“We can’t make a decision until we see the final language,” he added.

What is a Link Tax?

A link tax would charge internet companies, like Google, for posting links to press articles. The charges would take the form of licensing fees imposed via ancillary copyright, and would apply when a company included even a snippet from another publication with a link to the original text. It would also apply to media monitoring services, blogging, fact-checking services and potentially some headlines.

Google News aggregates articles, under which the link tax would cause it to have to pay publishers when their articles pop up in search. Another section of the EU proposal would financially protect people who upload content to services like YouTube, which is owned by Google.

Opponents are concerned this tax could affect consumers’ ability to find information and restrict access to free news.

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The European Alliance of News Agencies backs the plan and specifically pointed to Google and Facebook as targets.

"Very profitable companies, like Facebook and Google, offer users qualified news reporting from publishers including news agencies, but they do not offer a fair return for this usage," the group said in May.

On the flip side, many news outlets depend on Google’s search feature for traffic.

It wouldn’t be the first time Google News was shut down over regulatory policy: Google’s Gingras noted a similar policy was passed in Spain in 2014 causing it to pull the News function.

While the link tax and corresponding legislation was voted through the European Parliament earlier this year, discussions are ongoing.