Stalled engine: Google turns off search results for Californians looking for local news

by Ross O’Keefe at

With Google in a fight against a piece of California state legislation that aims to pay online publishers, some Californians may hit a wall searching for local news.

Google has blocked access for some residents to news outlets in California to protest the bill, named the California Journalism Preservation Act, which will require the company to pay a fee to link the news outlets’ articles. 

“To be clear, we believe CJPA undermines news in California,” Jaffer Zaidi, Google vice-president of global news partnerships, said in a blog post on Friday. “We don’t take these decisions lightly and want to be transparent with California publishers, lawmakers, and our users. To avoid an outcome where all parties lose and the California news industry is left worse off, we urge lawmakers to take a different approach.”

Zaidi also said the local news censorship is “a short-term test for a small percentage of California users.” Google has used the same content-blocking tactic in other places, such as Canada and Australia, which already require online platforms to pay journalism outlets. 

In a similar move, Meta threatened to remove news from Facebook and Instagram last year if the bill passed Google said it would follow suit in taking action. “If passed, CJPA may result in significant changes to the services we can offer Californians and the traffic we can provide to California publishers,” Zaidi wrote. 

The bill was passed by the California Assembly and is sitting in the California Senate Judiciary Committee. It will now have to go to the California State Senate and must be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA).

“Newspaper publishers and the journalists provide a really important service as a part of [Google’s] broader business model, and meanwhile they’re going bankrupt and you guys have record profits,” state Sen. Ben Allen (D-CA) said.