External traffic to Spanish news websites has fallen by 10 to 15 percent after Google removed the country’s publishers from its free news index. The internet giant says it was forced to drop the sites from Google News after legislation was passed allowing newspapers to charge if “even the smallest snippet from their publications” appeared on the free aggregator.

Data collected by web-analytics firm Chartbeat and first reported by Gigaom shows that external traffic to around 50 different sites fell sharply on Tuesday the 16th (the date Google made its changes) compared to a week previously. However, overall traffic was less obviously affected, with Chartbeat suggesting that more readers were following links between publications rather than relying on external sources.

“What we have here is correlation and not causation,” said Chartbeat chief data scientist Josh Schwartz in an email to The Wall Street Journal. “We’ll have a better read on whether there’s a consistent trend with a few more days to check things out.”

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