Google is currently claiming that it will shut down its search engine in Australia if a controversial bill that’s designed to benefit the news and media becomes law. This Friday, Australia’s Managing Director Mel Silva spoke at a Senate Hearing in Canberra in which they claimed that the “draft legislation remains unworkable and would be breaking the way millions of users searched for content online.”
“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. That would be a bad outcome not just for us, but for the Australian people, media diversity and small businesses who use Google Search. Right now Google’s main concern with the proposal is that it would require payments simply for links and snippets just to news results in Search. The free service we offer Australian users, and our business model, has been built on the ability to link freely between websites,” Silva told lawmakers.
Google and Facebook have long been fighting with publishers over how they display their content, while media companies believe that these tech giants should be paying them for the displays. Critics believe that based on how huge both Google and Facebook are, and since they dominate the online advertising business anyway, that they should realize that news publishers are left to scramble for advertising.
If passed the new legislation would allow certain media outlets to “bargain either individually or collectively with Facebook and Google — and to enter arbitration if the parties can’t reach an agreement within three months,” according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently called out Google for their threats and overconfidence in their ability to impact politics.
“Let me be clear. Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. 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. But we don’t respond to threats.”
Google has yet to respond to Morrison’s claims, but if one thigns for sure, both Google and Facebook have been adamantly opposed to the code since its introduction in Australia last summer. In the same Senate hearing that Silva spoke at, Simon Milner, Facebook;s vice president of public policy for Asia Pacific, said that the company could “ultimately block news content in Australia if they wanted.”
Milner told lawmakers “there was already a deterrent effect of this law on investment in the Australian news industry. Sir Tim Berners-Lee in the UK said this precedent set by this law could ‘make the web unworkable around the world.’”
Regulators claim that this legislation is necessary because it would level the playing field for the news media in Australia, as a majority of newsrooms across the country have temporarily shut down, or reduced their service. The case is currently ongoing, and only time will tell what sort of negotiations emerge from both Google/Facebook, and Australia’s end.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.