Google says it will stop Australians using search if the government’s news media bargaining code bill goes ahead that would force the tech giants to pay for Australian news.
As part of the inquiry into the Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020, Google Australia New Zealand’s managing director, Mel Silva, appeared before a largely hostile Senate Standing Committee on Economics to talk about the legislation and its affect on business.
During her appearance, Silva said that the company would have “no real choice but to stop making Google search available in Australia” if the law comes into effect in Australia.
“It’s not a threat, it’s a reality,” she said.
“Google has been privately warning politicians about this for months. Google boss Melanie Silva has now made that threat explicit and public. Huge,” she said.
This follows reporting that Google had begun experimenting with removing Australian news from search results without telling users.
Silva reiterated familiar criticism of the code including claims that it’s vague, it’s one-sided, and that paying for “links and snippets” of news would create perverse incentives that would encourage more links rather than original reporting.
While Labor members of the council focused on the process of developing the code, members of the Coalition, Greens and Centre Alliance struck a more skeptical tone of Google’s claims the code would “break the internet” and make the experience worse for Australian users.
Coalition Senator Andrew Bragg’s line of questioning criticised Silva’s claim that the company faces heavy regulation in Australia, noting that it don’t have to be licensed or meet service standards.
Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick criticised the argument that the code presented a technical problem, saying that “this isn’t about breaking the internet, it’s about breaking your revenue streams. It doesn’t touch the way the internet works.”
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young asked why Google was threatening to cut off all Search, while simultaneously saying that news isn’t a big part of the company’s business.
In response, Silva repeatedly said that the threat was a “worst case scenario” that the company would consider because of the precedent that it would set.