Google criticizes Australia for new code about news media bargaining [Update]

Like every country, Australia clashes with tech giants over various issues from time to time. Back in 2018, Huawei slammed the government ban that prevented it from providing 5G services in the country, claiming it to be a politically motivated. In the same year, numerous companies including Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, and Facebook formed an alliance to combat Australia's efforts to weaken encryption.

Now, the country's legislation has once again come under fire, this time from Google's content publishing wing.

In a nutshell, the new legislation, called the "News Media Bargaining Code", states that organizations such as Google and Facebook will have to bargain with Australian news outlets to secure "fair payment" for the content shown on their platform. Three months will be allotted for negotiations, and if these fail, an independent arbitrator will evaluate which side's offer was the most reasonable and decide in favor of either party within 45 business days.

This code has now come under fire from Google. In an "open letter to Australians," Mel Silva, Managing Director of Google Australia, has stated that the new law hurts the free services that its users utilize. It claims that the company already pays news media millions of dollars per year and provide them billions of free clicks, but instead of fostering this partnership, the Australian government is encouraging local news media to make unfair demands. Silva went on to say that:

You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful to you. We could no longer guarantee that under this law. The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses - news media businesses - over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business. News media businesses alone would be given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else, even when someone else provides a better result. We’ve always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking. The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you.

You trust us with your data and our job is to keep it safe. Under this law, Google has to tell news media businesses “how they can gain access” to data about your use of our products. There’s no way of knowing if any data handed over would be protected, or how it might be used by news media businesses.

Silva has stated that Google will devote its efforts to changing the law while building and maintaining constructive partnerships with news media organizations, and that it will be talking more about this code in the coming days.


Update: The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has now responded to Google's accusations, essentially calling them baseless. The organization went on to say that:

The open letter published by Google today contains misinformation about the draft news media bargaining code which the ACCC would like to address. Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so. Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.

The draft code will allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services. This will address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook.

The ACCC says that it will continue to consult with those involved, including Google, until August 28.

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