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Google News Is Taken Offline In Spain, After A Call For Payments

Reacting to a law that requires news sites in Spain to charge for their content, Google shut down its Google News service in the country Tuesday. The tech company and other news aggregators would face steep fines if they publish headlines and abstracts without paying.

"Spain's newspaper association lobbied for the law," Lauren Frayer reports for NPR from Madrid. "But now it's worried that without Google News, Spanish media will get less web traffic — and fewer readers worldwide. The association launched a last-minute plea, asking the Spanish government to negotiate with Google to try to keep Google News open — to no avail."

Reporting on the situation last week, Frayer said a joke has been going around on Twitter: "Have you heard the news from Spain? Well, you won't anymore."

The change affects only the Google News page, not the company's search service that also highlights news stories. But the move also means none of Google's news pages in other countries will show content from Spanish publishers.

Google says it's "incredibly sad" to make the change. Visitors to Spain's Google Noticias page today are instead being rerouted to a page explaining why the service is no longer available. It reads in part:

"This legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not. As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach was not sustainable."

Google took its news site down two weeks before Spain's new copyright law is set to go into effect with the new year. Dubbed the "Lassalle law," for Secretary of State for Culture Jose Maria Lassalle, it was approved last fall.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.