The proposed law will force Google and Facebook to pay local media outlets for their topical content or face millions of dollars in fines.
Google has threatened to block Australian users from accessing its search service unless the government changes proposed legislation to force the internet giant to pay media outlets for their content.
Google Australia chief executive Mel Silva told a Senate committee in Canberra on Friday that if current media bills go ahead unchanged it would be “the worst case” and force the company to block the Australians.
“If this version of the code becomes law, it would give us no choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Silva said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose Conservative government has responded to calls from the nation’s biggest news outlets to crack down on US tech companies, has reacted angrily to the threat.
“Australia sets our rules for what you can do in Australia. It’s done in our parliament, ”Morrison said.
“People who want to work with this in Australia, you are welcome, but we are not responding to threats.”
Google’s testimony “is part of a pattern of threatening behavior that shivers down the spine for anyone who values our democracy,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Center for Responsible Technology at the Australian Institute.
Checking the power of digital giants
Legislation was introduced last year to force Google and Facebook to pay local media outlets for their news content or face millions of dollars in fines, in one of the world’s most aggressive measures for verify the power of the two American digital giants.
Under the laws, companies will be required to indemnify Australian media, ranging from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to public broadcasters ABC and SBS.
The government has decided to exempt other popular platforms such as YouTube and Instagram from the rules.
Silva insisted that Google wanted to support news companies and instead suggested amendments to the media law, which are expected to come into force later this year.
“There is a clear path to fair and workable code, with only small changes,” said Silva.
The company had previously suggested that it could block Australian media content from appearing in its research in response to the law and began experimenting with the initiative earlier this month with a small number of users.
But on Friday was the first time the company said it was ready to block Australians from accessing its research.
The changes Google demanded from the bill included dropping a proposed mandatory arbitration process to determine the compensation of news companies, which was previously labeled “fundamentally unbalanced” by the US government.
Facebook also called the code “unworkable” in its current form and said the social media platform would stop posting Australian news.
“The vast majority of people who use Facebook would continue to be able to do so, but we would no longer be able to provide news,” Simon Milner, APAC vice president of public policy at Facebook, told the audience. .
Australia initially proposed a voluntary code of conduct, but hardened its stance after deciding that the ‘unequal bargaining position’ between traditional news media companies and digital platforms would prevent fair deals. .
The initiative has been closely watched around the world, as news media around the world have suffered from an increasingly digital economy where advertising revenue that once supported their operations instead goes to big tech companies.
An Australian review that led to the proposed changes found that for every $ 100 spent on online advertising, Google captures $ 53 and Facebook takes $ 28.
Google’s threat to limit its services in Australia came just hours after the internet giant struck a payment for content deal with some French news publishers in a $ 1.3 billion action. dollars over three years to support publishers.