Fri 22 January 2021:
Google has threatened on Friday to withdraw its search engine from Australia over controversy with Canberra on proposed media law, unless the government changes proposed legislation to make the internet giant pay news outlets for their content.
At the Senate hearing, managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand Mel Silva argued the proposed media law is unworkable in its current form and that, if the draft code became law, it would affect not only Google but small publishers, companies and millions of Australians who use its services every day.
“Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Silva told the lawmakers, according to her statement.
She appeared before the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, which is reviewing the proposed new regulation, the News Media Bargaining Code, at a public hearing.
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose conservative government has heeded demands by the country’s biggest news organisations to crack down on the US technology firms, responded angrily to the threat.
The legislation was introduced last year to force Google and Facebook to pay local media organisations for their news content or face millions of dollars in fines, in one of the most aggressive moves globally to check the power of the two US digital giants.
Under the laws, the firms will be required to compensate Australian media outlets, ranging from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to public broadcasters ABC and SBS.
The government has decided to exempt other popular platforms such as YouTube and Instagram from the rules.
On Tuesday, the US also asked Australia to step back from its proposed law against Facebook and Google.
However, on Friday Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected Google’s threat and said: “Let me be clear, Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our Parliament.”
“It’s done by our government and that’s how things work here in Australia, and people who want to work with that, in Australia, you’re very welcome,” ABC News quoted Morrison as saying.
The company earlier suggested it could block content from Australian news outlets from appearing in its searches in response to the law and began experimenting with the move earlier this month with a small number of users.
But Friday was the first time the company said it was prepared to block Australians from accessing its search.
The initiative has been closely watched around the globe, as news media worldwide have suffered in an increasingly digital economy where the advertising revenue that once supported their operations goes to big tech firms instead.
An Australian review that led to the proposed changes found that for every $100 spent on online advertising, Google captures $53 and Facebook takes $28.
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