Google threatens to kick French media out of search

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Google's threatening to cut French media from its search results, in response to a proposed law that would require it to pay for articles that appear in results.

The French government points out that Google is profiting from others' work by displaying headlines and first paragraphs, and believes that media sites are losing out on advertising revenue because people often don't click on the headlines to read more.

Germany's considering a similar law, based on the same argument.

But Google has now written to several French government offices claiming that paying for news links would threaten the company's entire existence. It says it 'cannot accept' the plan, and  'as a consequence would be required to no longer reference French sites'. The company claims it redirects as many as four billion clicks per month to French media websites.

The French government, though, isn't impressed by Google's argument.
 
"You don't deal with a democratically-elected government with threats," culture minister Aurelie Filippetti told AFP. She's previously commented that making Google pay for news leadlines is 'a tool that it seems important to me to develop'.

France has always been particularly protective of its indigenous culture, and this attitude has often been extended to the country's news media. It scrapped plans to introduce a tax on online advertising revenues, for example, over fears that this would hit small local companies harder than multinationals.

In its letter, Google claims that this plan too would damage France by discouraging other sites from linking to French ones.

"The adoption of such a law would have the effect of reducing considerably the referencing of French sites, to the benefit, particularly, of Anglo-Saxon sites, which would obviously not be subject to
Such a constraint," it says.

"On the web, if something's not referenced, it is off the radar: the French press and the French language would lose visibility."