The world’s leading search engine may have to pay content publishers in Australia if the government passes new legislation.
In response, Google has threatened to shut down the search engine in the country if this new law passes, and the threat, understandably, has not gone down well in Australia.
It all started when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) drafted the Media Negotiation Code at the behest of the government in July 2020, stating that Facebook and Google have too much power in the media industry.
The new law would require digital platforms to pay media organizations for the content they display in their search results.
This new legislation has not yet been approved by the government, but Google sees its business model in jeopardy, as Mel Silva, CEO of Google Australia, has expressed:
The ability to freely link between websites is essential for search. This code creates unreasonable and unmanageable financial and operational risk to our business.
If the Code were to become law in its current form, we would have no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.
Google has also shared its opinion on the bill in a blog post. It highlights that the new standard undermines one of the basic principles of the free and open web: the ability to link between websites.
As an alternative, the search giant suggests paying publishers through its upcoming Google News Showcase experience, which aims to share selected news articles with users.
The Australian government does not appear to be swayed by Google’s position, in the words of Prime Minister Scott Morrison:
We do not respond to threats. Australia sets our rules for the things that can be done in Australia. This is done in our Parliament. Our government does it. And this is how things work here in Australia.
It’s hard to predict how things will turn out, but it could be a precedent for what might one day happen in other countries.