Google threatens to shut down search in Australia over media law

Google has threatened to remove its search engine from Australia and Facebook has threatened to remove news from its feed for all Australian users if a code forcing the companies to negotiate payments to news media companies goes ahead.

The two companies are fighting against legislation currently before the parliament that would force the digital platforms to enter into negotiations with news media companies for payment for content, with an arbiter to ultimately decide the payment amount if no agreement can be reached.

On Jan 22, Google delivered an ultimatum to the government, saying it would not be viable to continue offering search in Australia if the code goes ahead.

The company’s Australian managing director, Mel Silva, told a Senate committee the proposed news code was untenable and would set a “dangerous precedent” for paying for links.

“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to search and 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,” she said.

“Withdrawing our services from Australia is the last thing that Google want to have happen, especially when there is another way forward.”

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, said at a press conference in Brisbane the government would not respond to threats.

“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.

“But we don’t respond to threats.”

Facebook has called the code unworkable in its current form, and has asked for digital platforms to be given six months’ grace to negotiate deals with news companies directly before being hit with the “big stick” of the mandatory code.

Stinton told the committee that the code is a “pragmatic way” to facilitate negotiations between news media and the digital platforms, and argued the claim of opponents that the legislation would break an open internet ignored the internet had changed.

“Opponents of the code are defending an open internet that ceased to exist years ago, and instead has become dominated by a small number of very, very large US tech companies,” he said.

“In fact, Google and Facebook are the internet for most Australians, or at least the key gateway to it. Google has a monthly audience of 19 million, and Facebook of 17 million.

Source- The Guardian