French Law Endangers Google’s ‘Very Existence’, Threatens Country-Wide News Boycott

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What happens if Google boycotts an entire country’s news content? We might get to witness such a trade war if Google excludes French news¬†from its search results because of a proposed law that requires search engines to pay for displaying snippets of content. Google believes the law “would threaten its very existence.” France complains that Google is raking in advertising revenue off of others’ work, while Google counters that they’ve sent over 4 billion clicks to French sites each month.

This isn’t Google’s first fight. News Corp. head, Rupert Murdoch, once threatened to pull his media empire from Google News. Google called his bluff, designed an easy way to “de-index” from Google News, and hasn’t seen any action since.

France might be more stubborn than Murdoch however, as the policy has the support of French Culture Minister, Aurelie Filippetti, and leading French newspapers. Newspapers have seen plummeting profits since the rise of the Internet. Indeed, the once-mighty Newsweek announced plans today to cease its print publication at the end the year.

Pew estimates that Google drives 30% of traffic to top news sites, though that number could vary widely for local news sites and the increasing importance of social media. Whatever the actual number, a Google boycott could be a costly protest, especially if they face it alone.