Earlier this month, Google went public in its war with Australia’s consumer watchdog about being forced to pay for news. The company directly appealed to YouTube creators to push back against the ACCC’s draft news media bargaining code. And now it seems YouTubers are responding.
A new online petition has racked up nearly 50,000 signatures in less than a week. Started by Australian YouTuber Economics Explained, the petition includes a link to a template letter decrying the changes. The email is addressed to all 76 Australian federal senators and the ACCC’s Commissioners.
And people are sending these emails en masse. Politicians said they’ve received thousands of letters since the petition was launched. NSW Senator Tony Sheldon said he’s been inundated with emails, claiming many are from non-Australian citizens.
“I am the target audience of this scare-letter campaign and I am not buying it. And no one bought them crying poor this week either. Australians know how big their profits are and how little tax they pay here,” Sheldon told the Australian.
What does the petition say?
The petition, titled ‘Save YouTube By Stoping (sic) Australia’s Proposed Law (News Media Bargaining Code) #OurYouTube‘, is a grandiose and inflammatory rebuke of the ACCC’s plans to regulate Australia’s digital platforms.
“If you’re reading this, Australia’s democracy is under attack,” it reads. “The Australian Government has proposed legislation which, if enacted, will enable large news publishers to effectively suppress any and all content they disagree with.”
The petition claims the ACCC’s draft code mandates that YouTube supply its “inner workings” to news media companies. It follows by saying this would allow them to ‘suppress’ other content by placing their own content at the top.
This is very likely an exaggeration. According to the ACCC, the code would mandate that Google and Facebook would give warning of significant algorithm changes. But that’s not the same as full knowledge of the algorithm. And even if news companies did have access to the entire algorithm, there’s no way they could practically suppress “all other online content they disagree with”.
And the petition also claims that “the proposed law also jeopardises the privacy rights of YouTube viewers by requiring that YouTube hand-over vast amounts of private user-data to these large news companies.”
The ACCC refuted this claim in its response to Google’s open letter earlier this month. It said that the draft craft would require Google to provide information about what data is collected, but not to share that data.
Where does YouTube fit into the ACCC’s plans?
Well, it’s little unclear. The ACCC’s draft code doesn’t mention YouTube. So, it can’t be forced to do anything in the arbitration — because it’s not part of it.
But Google claims the code isn’t clear how it would apply to Australian news companies who have accounts on YouTube.
“The explanatory materials refer to the specific services which it is proposed would be the subject of binding arbitration. The majority of the obligations in the draft code appear to apply to every one of Google’s digital platforms … that ‘make available’ news content. This term is not defined,” a Google spokesperson told the Australian Financial Review.
This gets to the crux of the recent fight between the ACCC and Google. The tech giant has come out swinging at the code, pointing out vague or broad requirements. But the code is still a work-in-progress.
That’s why the ACCC’s response to the Google open letter was to invite them to take part in the consultation about the code. So, it remains to be seen what the final version of the code will look like.
Submissions for the ACCC’s draft code close on 28 August.