Google is threatening to remove its search engine from Australia, over a proposed law that would force the company to pay news publishers for their content.
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Google's managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Melanie Silva, informed an Australian Senate committee that if the government followed through on its proposal to require the Big Tech giant to compensate news outlets for their content, the company's search engine would no longer be available in the country.
Experts suggested to the Hearld that the threat was not idle, with Google likely concerned that such a law could set a precedent across the world.
“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 told the Australian Senate's Economics Legislation Committee. “We have had to conclude after looking at the legislation in detail we do not see a way, with the financial and operational risks, that we could continue to offer a service in Australia.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country would not be responding to threats, saying that “Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our Parliament. It’s done by our government, and that’s how things work here in Australia.”
“People who want to work with that, in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats,” the prime minister added.
Morrison's government has touted the necessity of the proposed legislation to foster a sustainable media industry. If implemented, the legislation would include an arbitration system that would see binding decisions on fees that social media companies must pay to media outlets.
Google suggests that Australia is trying to force the company to pay for links and snippets displayed on Google Search, not simply for stories featured in places like Google News. This would “set an untenable precedent for our business and the digital economy,” the company maintains, according to The Verge.
It's estimated that Google has around 19 million users per month in Australia, reports the Financial Times. An estimate from GlobalStats shows that for the last month of 2020, Google dominated search usage in the country, with more than 94 per cent of users choosing the company over competitors.
Bing, the second most frequently used search engine, accounted for just 3.74 per cent, while third place DuckDuckGo and fourth place Yahoo had just 0.79 per cent and 0.73 per cent respectively.
The proposed legislation, the News Media Bargaining Code, is available on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's website.
The full statement from Melanie Silva can be read on Google's blog, where they also published another post titled '8 Facts about Google and the News Media Bargaining Code'.