Due to the decline of traditional media, the Australian government is pushing for a law that forces tech giants such as Google and Facebook to pay publishers for using their content. Now Google appears to be fighting back by threatening to remove its search engine from the country if the law goes into effect.
Google Australia and New Zealand VP Meg Silva told the inquiry: “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.” This means Google Search will be disabled to all users in Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to Google by saying “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.” He added “People who want to work with that, in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats.”
The Google VP said the ultimatum is a “worst case scenario” insisting that “It’s not a threat. It’s reality”. She added after studying the legislation in detail, Google does not see a way with the financial and operational risk that they could continue to offer a service in Australia.
Google has been opposing the new law since last year and it believes that the move will undermine the concept of a free and open internet. In September 2020, Facebook had suggested that it will block users from sharing local and international news on its platform if the government goes ahead with the law.
The new law was proposed to address the imbalance between news media businesses and digital platforms. This is due to various traditional publications that have suffered loss of revenue to Google and Facebook. It was reported that 3,000 journalism jobs have been lost in Australia in the past 10 years due to losses in advertising revenue to Google and Facebook which paid nothing for using their content. It alleged that Google and Facebook takes a third of every AUD 100 spent on online advertising (except classifieds) in Australia.
If the law goes into effect, Australia would be the first country in the world to make tech giants to pay traditional media outlets for news. However, the move will only benefit eligible news media businesses which adhere to a minimum editorial standard and generate an annual revenue of more than RM150,000.