Google labels Australia's news media bargaining code as 'unfair'

It said the regulation is putting the way Aussies search every day on Google at risk and that it will do everything it possibly can to get the proposal changed.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Google has responded to the federal government's move to back media organisations in bargaining to secure "fair" payment for news content shown on its platform, labelling the imminent regulation as putting the way Aussies search every day on Google at risk.

"We need to let you know about new government regulation that will hurt how Australians use Google Search and YouTube," it writes in an open letter penned by local MD Mel Silva.

"A proposed law, the News Media Bargaining Code, would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia."

The draft code of practice, published last month by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), adopts a model based on negotiation, mediation, and arbitration to "best facilitate genuine commercial bargaining between parties, allowing commercially negotiated outcomes suited to different business models used by Australian news media businesses".

The watchdog believes the code is necessary to address the fundamental bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and major digital platforms.

Read more: Google and Facebook to bargain with Aussie news outlets for 'fair' payment terms

"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," Google wrote.

"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."

The search giant believes news media businesses alone would be given information that would help them "artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else".

"We've always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking," the letter continued. "The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you."

Google considers that under the new code, as it is currently drafted, there would be no way of knowing if any data handed over would be protected, or how it might be used by news media businesses.

With ACCC chair Rod Sims saying digital platforms derive a significant benefit from making Australian news available on their services, a benefit that is "extremely challenging for the government to quantify", Google is of the belief the regulation would hurt the free services everyone uses, not benefit them.

"We deeply believe in the importance of news to society. We partner closely with Australian news media businesses -- we already pay them millions of dollars and send them billions of free clicks every year," Google said.

"We've offered to pay more to license content. But rather than encouraging these types of partnerships, the law is set up to give big media companies special treatment and to encourage them to make enormous and unreasonable demands that would put our free services at risk.

"We're going to do everything we possibly can to get this proposal changed so we can protect how Search and YouTube work for you in Australia and continue to build constructive partnerships with news media businesses -- not choose one over the other."


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