Google rules out closing Google News

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 25 August 2020

Google has again hit out against the proposed news media bargaining code, but says it would be too difficult to simply shut Google News in Australia, as it has elsewhere, to avoid the code.

In another blog post from the tech giant, Google said the proposed law by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which will govern how digital platforms pay news publishers for their content, encourages “enormous and unreasonable” demands, calling it “unworkable”.

At the base of Google’s objection is that the proposed code gives publishers information on its algorithm which it says would make Search and YouTube worse for users.

“First, the very nature of our search engine and YouTube is to surface the best information,” Google says.

“If one group is given special information and notice, and can game the rankings at the expense of others, we can’t provide the best service. Having to disclose information about ranking would harm our services in Australia and around the world.”

Google says it wouldn’t be able to simply close Google News, as it did in Spain after attempts by the government to make it pay for news, because the code was too broadly defined and would force it to remove global news content.

“If we show Australians any content from any ‘news publisher’ (defined to include any ‘website’) in the world, we must also show all news content of news businesses registered under the Code,” Google says.

“For this purpose, ‘news’ is defined very broadly - way beyond what most of us would consider ‘news’. This includes covering issues that are of ‘interest to Australians’, including foreign news and citizen journalism - which go well beyond traditional journalism to capture all kinds of information, blogs, videos and websites.

“That means we’d have to undertake a mass cull of content globally to stop them being visible to Australians - we’d have to remove all foreign newspapers, bloggers, YouTube citizen reporters, but also sports reporting, discussions of global health issues, tweets about current events, and literally endless other types of content from all sources around the world.”

Google, which says it’s heard from “thousands of Australians” who share its concerns, argued it was making good progress with publishers on a voluntary code of conduct before the government ordered the ACCC to develop a mandatory code, and said it’s prepared to pay more for news content. It also called the negotiation and arbitration process to find a payment “extremely one-sided and unfair”.

“So unfair that no company should be asked to accept it. Just before this law was proposed we had reached agreements with several Australian news organisations to pay them to license their content,” Google says.

“We're happy to pay more to license content, and want to support journalism as it transitions to a digital future, but a fair negotiation or arbitration should factor in the value both parties provide.”

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