Google orders to stop search engine in Australia if forced to pay for news
February 26, 2021

Google orders to stop search engine in Australia if pressured to pay for news

SYDNEY (AUSTRALIA) – Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it would block its search engine in Australia if the government goes forward with a new code forcing it and Facebook Inc for paying media companies for the right to use their content.

Google’s threat aggravates the dispute with publishers such as News Corp. It had warned that its 19 million Australian users would be subjected to degraded search and YouTube experiences if the new code was brought into effect.

Australia is on its way to pass laws that would take tech giants on a path of negotiation for payments with local publishers and broadcasters regarding content included in search results or news feeds. If they cannot agree upon a deal, a government-appointed arbitrator will zero in on the price.

Mel Silva, managing director for Australia and New Zealand, told a senate committee, “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 made no mention of YouTube in prepared remarks, as the video service is likely to be exempted as per changes made to the code last month.

Google’s comments invited flak from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said the country makes its rules for “things you can do in Australia.”

Morrison told reporters, “People who want to work with that in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats.”

At the inquiry, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims, who has overseen the new rules, said he could not predict what the tech giants would do but said “there’s always brinkmanship in serious negotiations”.

He said, “They talk of commercial deals where they’re in full control of the deal. In my view that’s not a commercial deal.”

Google has called the code overly broad and said that without any revisions being made, providing even a limited search tool would be pose risks. The company does not however reveal details of sales from Australia, but search ads are its biggest contributor when it comes to revenue and profit globally.

Google’s threat to restrict its services in Australia came a few hours after it struck a content-payment deal with some French news publishers as part of three-year, $1.3-billion push to support publishers.

Peter Lewis, director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology, said, Google’s testimony “is part of a pattern of threatening behaviour that is chilling for anyone who values our democracy”.

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