Update 26/1/2021: Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that it is inevitable for Google to pay for news content from Australian media companies, according to a report from The Guardian. He also added that Google will do a “big disservice” to itself should the company follow through on their threat of removing their search engine in Australia.
Google’s search engine could be unavailable in Australia soon due to a bill regulating its online advertising revenue.
Meg Silva, Google Australia and New Zealand’s Vice President told Australia’s Senate Economics Legislation Committee on 22 January 2021 that Google will be forced to stop making Google Search available in Australia if the current version of the proposed News Media Bargaining Code were to be passed into law.
The Code is part of a set of recommendations from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) 2019 digital platforms inquiry that found tech giants like Google and Facebook took an unreasonable share of online advertising revenue in the media industry even though their content came from media organisations, The Verge reported.
It should be noted that the Treasurer of Australia ordered the creation of the Code to force tech giants to pay Australian media companies for using their content, according to an ABC News Australia report.
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was reported to have said that “it’s only fair that those that generate content get paid for it,” at the time.
Silva previously mentioned in an open letter to Australians on 17 August 2020 that the Code would send users’ search data to media companies and will provide an unfair advantage to big media companies.
The ACCC responded to Google’s open letter saying that users’ data will only reach media companies if Google chooses to do so.
The ACCC also added that the Code will also allow Australian media companies to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services.
Tim Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web’s creator, wrote in a submission to an Australian Senate Inquiry about the bill about his concerns over the Code that could breach a “fundamental principle of the web” by requiring payment for linking between certain content online, Business Insider and The Hindu reports.
Berners-Lee added that he supports the proper compensation of publishers for their work, but putting constraints on hypertext link usage is “not the correct way to achieve this goal.”
“If this precedent were followed elsewhere it could make the web unworkable around the world,” Berners-Lee added.
The US government has also joined Berners-Lee, Google and Facebook’s voices to scrap the proposed code. The US government suggested pursuing a voluntary code instead, according to Reuters.
The Code’s second hearing has been moved on 12 September 2020 according to the Parliament of Australia’s website. The Code has been referred to Committee on 20 October 2020 with a report from the Senate Economics Legislation Committee due on 2 December 2021.
Written by John Paul Joaquin