Google said Friday it would block its search engine in Australia if the government proceeds with a new code that would force it and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for the right to use their content. The Google threat escalates a battle with publishers like News Corp that is being closely watched around the world.
The search giant had warned that if its 19 million Australian users were to enforce the new code, they would face degraded search and YouTube experiences. Australia is well on its way to passing laws that would encourage tech giants to negotiate payments with local publishers and broadcasters for content featured in search results or newsfeeds.
If they can’t reach an agreement, a government-appointed arbitrator will decide the price. “Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code becomes law, we have no choice but to discontinue Google Search available in Australia,” Mel Silva, executive director for Australia and New Zealand, told a Senate committee .
Silva did not mention YouTube in prepared comments as the video service is expected to be released in the last month due to code changes. Google’s comments were sharply reprimanded by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He said the country makes its rules for “things to do in Australia”. People who want to work with it in Australia are very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats, ”Morrison told reporters. During the investigation, Australia’s Competition and Consumers Commission chairman Rod Sims, who oversaw the new rules, said he couldn’t predict what the tech giants would do, but said, “There’s always brinkmanship in serious negotiations.” We are in full control of the deal, ”he said. “In my opinion, this is not a commercial deal.”
Google has called the code too broad and stated that without revisions it would be too risky to offer even a limited search tool. The company doesn’t post sales from Australia, but search ads are the top contributors to sales and profits worldwide. The United States government this week asked Australia to abolish proposed laws, which have broad political support, and suggested that Australia should pursue a voluntary code instead.
Australia announced the legislation last month after an investigation found that Google and social media giant Facebook had too much market power in the media industry. This situation posed a potential threat to a well-functioning democracy. Google’s threat to curtail its services in Australia came just hours after the internet giant struck up a three-year $ 1.3 billion project to support publishers Had entered into a contract for the payment of content with some French news publishers.
Google’s statement “is part of a pattern of threatening behavior that is daunting to anyone who values our democracy,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Australia Institute’s Center for Responsible Technology.