Senator Calls on Canadians to ‘Switch to Bing’ Search Engine, Even Though Microsoft Isn’t Paying News Outlets Either
Heritage Minister says Microsoft’s search engine will not be required to compensate news publishers under the Online News Act
In response to the fallout over the federal government’s Online News Act that could see Google and Meta block links to Canadian news organizations, one Senator is calling on Canadians to join him in switching their search engines to Bing.
The federal government’s recently passed Bill C-18, the “Online News Act,” requires social media and search engine companies to cut multi-million dollar deals with Canadian news publishers as compensation for displaying links to news websites.
Both Meta and Google have announced they will simply block links to Canadian news websites rather than negotiate deals with news organizations, leading one Senator to announce he’s “switching from Google to Bing as my preferred search tool.”
“Further to the adoption of C-18, I resent the blackmailing of Canadians by Meta and Google,” Senator Pierre Dalphond told PressProgress. The Senator added that “by switching our clicks to another search engine than Google, Canadians can force it to show respect for Canada.”
“I have chosen Bing because it is as good as Google as a search engine while it offers access to Canadian news content and its management does not try to play tough with Canada,” Senator Dalphond explained.
“I urge Canadians to do the same to show Big Techs that their business model rests on us using them.”
Dalphond, a Senator from Québec who was appointed by Justin Trudeau in 2018, publicly announced he “switched to Microsoft Bing” in a tweet last week.
— Sen. Pierre J. Dalphond, Québec (@DalphondPierre) July 6, 2023
The Senator’s tweet linked to a news article from The Logic, a tech industry focused Canadian news site, titled “Microsoft Bing will keep showing Canadian news, despite passage of Bill C-18.”
The article, which notes Bing will “continue to surface links” to Canadian news outlets, also mentions Microsoft is unlikely to pay for news under the Online News Act:
“…only Meta and Google-parent Alphabet exceed the thresholds the government is currently contemplating, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez told a Senate committee last month. If the regulator plays along, Bing could keep news links without paying out to publishers under the new law.”
In a follow-up statement, Senator Dalphond said Microsoft should be required to pay Canadian news publishers in the same manner as Meta and Google only if “millions” of Canadians join him in migrating to Bing.
“If millions switch to Bing and as a result it meets the threshold, the Act shall apply,” Dalphond clarified.
Dalphond isn’t alone. Other influential Canadian political voices have recently mused about switching search engines to Bing.
— Bruce Anderson (@bruceanderson) July 2, 2023
A number of Justin Trudeau’s top staffers have also switched to Microsoft.
Trudeau’s former director of operations, Marlene Floyd, currently serves as Microsoft Canada’s head of corporate affairs while Trudeau’s former PMO Communications Director, Kate Purchase, currently works in the office of Microsoft’s CEO.
Microsoft Canada did not answer specific questions about what steps the company is taking to financially support journalism in Canada, but said it would generally comply with any laws the company might be subject to.
“Microsoft intends to comply with legislation as it applies to our products,” Microsoft Canada spokesperson Veronica Langvee said in a statement to PressProgress.
“Microsoft supports a strong and independent news and media ecosystem as an essential ingredient for social cohesion, and a foundation of our democratic systems of government.”
Microsoft has reported over $50 billion in profits during the current fiscal year.
Earlier this year, the Globe and Mail reported Microsoft Canada’s ownership was transferred to a subsidiary in Ireland, a move speculated to be part of a legal offshore tax avoidance strategy. Other multinational corporations in the tech sector, including Google and Facebook, have also made use of similar offshore tax strategies.
The list of search engines and social media companies required to pay for news will technically be determined by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission through regulations that have not yet been created.
In a statement to PressProgress, the CRTC said “no such list exists at the moment,” but the federal government “intends to make regulations to help determine to which digital news intermediaries the Act applies.”
“Any list of digital news intermediaries would depend on the content of those regulations.”
Asked during Senate committee hearings if Microsoft Bing could fall under the Online News Act, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez emphasized the law only applies to digital news intermediaries that are in a “dominant situation.”
“In the thresholds we’re looking at there’s only two – that’s Facebook and Google.”
It remains unclear how many Canadians actually use Bing, or how the CRTC would determine which search engines are “dominant.” Microsoft has not recently disclosed any detailed internal data on Bing use in Canada.
In 2017, Microsoft claimed Bing generated over 400 million searches per month in Canada, a figure the company suggested represented a 17.5% market share. In 2021, Microsoft suggested Bing’s market share in Canada was between “10-15%.”
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