A Google executive is suggesting the federal government’s online news law is among the “regulatory” factors slowing the rollout of the company’s artificial intelligence chatbot in Canada.

Bard, Google’s generative AI product and rival to ChatGPT, launched in March and is now available in 40 languages and 230 countries and territories, with plans for further expansion “in a way that is consistent with local regulations,” the company said.

During a Tuesday press roundtable about Google’s AI projects, Sam Sebastian, vice president and Canada country manager of Google Cloud, said the company considers a country’s “regulatory regime” among other factors when deciding where to launch Bard.

When asked what regulations Google is considering when it comes to bringing Bard to Canada, Sebastian cited the Online News Act, which would force tech giants and other companies to pay Canadian news producers for links posted to their platforms

“We’ll bring (Bard) here to Canada very soon as we manage through all the regulatory issues,” Sebastian said.

“C-18’s (the Online News Act) the perfect example on how we navigate that brand-new legislation (…) that’s one of the many things we’ll look at,” he added. 

Meta and Google have been vehemently opposed to the law, with Meta blocking news sharing on both Facebook and Instagram in retaliation.

Google has promised to remove Canadian news from its search and end its Google News Showcase in Canada once the bill takes effect later this year. It previously blocked news links for some Canadian users earlier this year as a test.

The company has said it is reviewing regulations related to the law before deciding its next steps.

Kent Walker, president of global affairs at Google and Alphabet, previously called the bill a “link tax” that “exposes us to uncapped financial liability simply for facilitating Canadians’ access to news from Canadian publishers.”

BNNBloomberg.ca has reached out to the federal government for comment.

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