Google threatens to pull out of Australia over new law

Google has threatened to remove its search engine from Australia after the government introduced a law that would force tech giants, such as Facebook and Google, to pay for the content provided by local news publishers and broadcasters. 

The landmark-setting law charges tech companies for circulating the stories of Australian broadcasters and publishers. The law has set off months-long discussions between the Australian government and Google and its fellow US tech company, Facebook. Google’s Australian managing director, Mel Silva has told Senate that the laws are “unworkable.”

“If this version of the code were to become the law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Silva said. Continuing, Ms Silva said Google would be unwilling to continue in the country with the financial and operational risks.

Last year, Facebook also threatened to disable Australian users from sharing news content on the platform if the law was to go through. On Friday, Facebook executive Simon Milner repeated this to the Senate hearing as a “worst-case consequence.” Milner also said Facebook gained little commercial benefit from news content. 

Both firms argue that news content on their platforms drives readers to news organizations’ websites, benefitting them. US trade representatives have asked Australia to reconsider.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has accused google of “blackmail”, promising Australian lawmakers would not submit to threats.  

“Let me be clear,” he told reporters. “Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia.”

Google is the dominant search engine in Australia. The Australian government has introduced the law to pay for customers they gain through journalism. The law might also have been introduced due to the decrease in Australian news industry revenue, while Google’s revenue has simultaneously increased. Out of the $3.7bn gross revenue Google earned in Australia in 2019, $7.7m of their revenue came from news content. Out of every $100 spent on digital advertising, the Australian news industry only receives $19.

If Google were to withdraw their services from Australia, a country where they have little market competition, Australians would be forced to use other alternatives, such as Bing and Yahoo. Google argues that the laws go against the free-flowing ocean of information that the internet is supposed to provide. 

Google has run ads on its platform to advocate their case in Australia. 

Image Credit: CNET