Google says small businesses are in the firing line with the mandatory code

25 September 2020

Small and medium sized businesses could suffer under proposed new rules to govern how digital platforms pay publishers for content, says Google.

Mel Silva, the head of Google Australia, in a blog post, says these businesses use Google services to advertise and connecting with new customers via free listings on Search and Maps.

“As Australia starts to look towards economic recovery, we’re concerned that many of these businesses will be affected by a new law being proposed by the Australian Government -- the News Media Bargaining Code -- which would put the digital tools they rely on at risk,” she says.

“While we don’t oppose a code governing the relationship between digital platforms and news businesses, the current draft Code has implications for everyone, not just digital platforms and media businesses.”

She says the draft code affects small businesses because it would weaken Google services like Search and YouTube.

These services created more than 130 million connections between business and potential customers in 2019, and contributed to the $35 billion in benefits generated for more than 1.3 million businesses across the country.

“But they rely on Search and YouTube working the same for everyone, so that people can trust that the results they see are useful and authoritative, and businesses know they’re on a level playing field,” she says.

“Under the draft code, we’d be forced to give some news businesses privileged access to data and information -- including about changes to our search algorithms -- enabling them to feature more prominently in search results at the expense of other businesses, website owners and creators.”

For example, a cafe owner might have made their way to the top spot in Search results for a particular query over time, thanks to popularity, search interest and other signals.

“But if the draft code became law -- giving some publishers an advanced look at algorithm changes -- they could potentially take advantage of this and make their web content appear more prominently in search results,” she says.

“Likewise, if you ran an independent travel website that provides advice to people on how to plan local holidays, you might lose out to a newspaper travel section because they’ve had a sneak peek at changes to how Search works.

“That’s an unfair advantage for news businesses. Businesses of all kinds would face an additional hurdle at a time when it’s more important than ever to connect with their customers.”


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