Google threatens to shut down search in Australia if proposed law isn’t changed

A Google official on Friday said the search engine would have “no real choice,” but to stop making the service available in Australia if the country’s government does not alter a proposed law to pay publishers for news. 

The Australian law proposed over the summer states that media companies will be able to request payment from Google and Facebook for news articles posted on the platforms. 

Media companies and news organizations have defended the measure, arguing that it would prevent tech companies like Google and Facebook from walking away from compensation negotiations. 

However, The Wall Street Journal reported that Mel Silva, Google Australia’s managing director, told a parliamentary committee Friday that the code requiring Google to pay publishers for links that appear in search results would be harmful, adding that unrestricted linking is fundamental for the platform’s operations. 

“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,” Silva said. “That would be a bad outcome not just for us, but for the Australian people, media diversity and small businesses who use Google Search.”

In their criticism of the code, Google and Facebook have noted that publishers benefit from including their links on the platforms, taking readers directly to publishers’ websites. 

The Journal noted that the Australian government did not offer any promises to alter the proposed code Friday, with the parliamentary committee set to release a report on the measure by Feb. 12. 

“Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday, according to the Journal. “People who want to work with that in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats.”

Simon Milner, vice president of public policy at Facebook Asia-Pacific, told Australia’s parliamentary committee Friday that while the company would like to engage in talks with publishers, he argued the proposed code gives publishing companies overwhelming power in negotiations. 

Milner added that, “rather than increasing investment in news and journalism, it will have the opposite effect,” according to the Journal. 

In October, Google announced that it would be paying publishers under a $1 billion investment for its Google News Showcase, which allows publishers to package the stories that appear in Google’s news products. 

Google at the time said it had launched the project in Brazil and Germany, and had also signed partnerships with nearly 200 publications across Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries.

Tags Australia Brazil compensation agreement Facebook Germany Google News media news publishing search engine The Wall Street Journal United Kingdom

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