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Our statement before the California Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the California Journalism Preservation Act.

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Note from the Editor: Presented before the California Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

Greetings, Chair Umberg, Esteemed Committee Members, and Assemblymember Wicks. We appreciate the chance to address you today.

I am Jaffer Zaidi, holding the position of Google’s Global Vice President of News Partnerships.

Since 1998, our primary objective has been to make information worldwide easily accessible and beneficial. In alignment with this goal, Search consistently directs numerous visits to publisher websites, encompassing news publishers of various scales.

At present, we stand as one of the most significant supporters of journalism globally. This includes paid licensed programs through our News Showcase offering and the Google News Initiative, supplying tools, training, and funding initiatives specifically aimed at local, underrepresented, and community-based publications. Through these initiatives, we proudly endorse over 200 news organizations in California.

It’s vital to acknowledge that the act of presenting links to news content does not generate substantial revenue for Google, as we rarely display advertisements alongside news searches. Our investments are driven by the purpose of connecting users to information and news concerning the world they inhabit, a fundamental aspect of our mission. Hence, we share the objective of enhancing local journalism in California.

Nonetheless, despite good intentions, we firmly believe that the California Journalism Preservation Act adopts an erroneous approach that will inevitably yield adverse outcomes.

Initially, it rests on the flawed assumption that platforms illicitly appropriate news content and derive benefits from it without compensating news enterprises. This does not align with how Search functions. All website proprietors — including news organizations and publishers — have the discretion to permit us to link to their site and determine what additional content (if any) may be displayed.

Furthermore, the bill threatens to undermine the fundamental tenets of the open internet by mandating platforms to remunerate publishers for directing valuable, free traffic their way, traffic that publishers opt to receive. It also mandates platforms to exhibit that content — a notion that is profoundly unconstitutional and problematic.

As many have emphasized, the bill could disproportionately benefit entities that contradict the support of genuine local journalism in California. This encompasses out-of-state private equity agencies and hedge funds known for dismantling newsrooms, along with global and national publishing conglomerates.

Moreover, the bill lacks mechanisms to impede misinformation-oriented actors from accessing funding.

Simultaneously, it places the entire burden of assistance on a couple of enterprises, shielding numerous significant platforms that also link to California news publishers.

Models of this nature have prompted some platforms to entirely remove links to news publishers in other regions, severely impacting smaller publishers in particular.

A more feasible path must be forged.

We have presented a proposition that would substantially amplify our contributions, channeled through targeted initiatives ensuring support for genuinely California-focused journalism. It calls for a wide array of stakeholders to contribute — a prerequisite for any viable solution. We anticipate this proposal could form the basis for a practicable way forward, and we are dedicated to collaborating towards that end.

Concluding, I extend profound gratitude to Chair Umberg, Assemblymember Wicks, Senator Glazer, and all committee members for their endeavors to engage with and heed stakeholders.

Thank you for your attention, and I eagerly anticipate addressing any queries you may have.

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