Google has threatened to make its search engine unavailable in Australia if the Australian government goes ahead with plans to make the tech giant pay media outlets for their news content.
In the world-first law, Google, Facebook and potentially other tech companies could be made to share royalties with news publishers.
The government argues that because tech platforms, like Google, gain customers from people who want to read the news, then they should pay newsrooms a fair amount for their journalism.
The proposed code of conduct was drawn up by consumer rights watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Google and Facebook have both pushed back, stating that the law would make them withdraw some of their services in Australia.
This would mean that the 19 million Australians who use Google each month would no longer be able to use Google search. Additionally, the 17 million Australians who use Facebook every month would be unable to see or post any news articles on the social media platform.
‘No choice but to make Google Search unavailable in Australia’
Google issued an ultimatum to the Australian government, stating that it would not be able to continue offering its search services in Australia if the code goes ahead.
Mel Silva, Google Australia’s Managing Director, appeared at a public hearing of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee that is reviewing the proposed new law, called the News Media Bargaining Code.
She said that Google is “committed to achieving a workable News Media Bargaining Code”, but in its current form, the code is “unworkable”.
“If this version of the code were to become law, it would give [Google] no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Silva said.
She explained that there “is a workable path forward” and suggested some changes that could be made to the bill.
‘Not compatible with how search engines work’
Silva said: “There are three areas of concern which I will touch on shortly, but the most critical of these is the requirement to pay for links and snippets in Search.
“This provision in the code would set an untenable precedent for our business, and the digital economy. It’s not compatible with how search engines work, or how the internet works, and this is not just Google’s view - it has been cited in many of the submissions received by this inquiry.”
She ended her statement by saying: “With only slight amendments, the code can support Australia as a world leader in news innovation, media diversity, and consumer choice without sacrificing the benefits that Google provides to large and small businesses in Australia.”
‘We don’t respond to threats’
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison hit back at the announcement from Google, stating: “We don’t respond to threats.”
Speaking to reporters in Brisbane, Morrison said: “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.”