In the latest skirmish between publishers and tech companies, Google is trying to turn the screws on the Australian government over its attempts to force the company to pay for news. But the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), isn’t shirking from a fight: it says Google’s recent attack contains misinformation.
On Monday, Google turned up the heat in the fight between Google, Facebook and Australian news media by publishing an open letter to Australians.
The letter was in response to the ACCC’s draft news media bargaining code, which requires the parties to go through a negotiation and provide notice about any upcoming algorithm changes.
What did Google’s letter say?
The letter, penned by Google Australia’s managing director Mel Silva, claimed that “new Government regulation will hurt how Australians use Google Search and YouTube.” She made three arguments:
- That news publishers would be getting special treatment by “artificially inflate their ranking”.
- User data would be forced to be shared, which was potentially risky for privacy.
- And a forced payment for news may mean Google puts these services “at risk”.
And, in case that wasn’t subtle enough, it put a warning on its sparse homepage and set up an pop-up prompt for anyone using search.
What did the ACCC say about Google’s letter?
Later in the day, the ACCC took the opportunity to respond to Google’s open letter by claiming it contained misinformation.
The response honed in on two of Google’s three main points. Firstly, it said Google wouldn’t be forced to charge for their services “unless it choose to do so.” Secondly, the ACCC claims Google wouldn’t be required to share user data either.
Zooming out, the ACCC restated the purpose of the draft code was to create an even playing field for negotiating a “payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services”.
The consumer watchdog’s response ends by reminding readers that consultation around the draft code is still under way. It goes onto invite anyone — like, for instance, a tech behemoth who’s decided to go public with its problems — to have their say.