Google warns Australians draft news code will make local services 'dramatically worse'

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 17 August 2020
Mel Silva

Google has written an open letter to Australians arguing against the federal government’s proposal to force the platform to pay  media companies for news content.

Last month, the government revealed a draft code that would allow news companies, including Nine and News Corp Australia, to negotiate with Facebook and Google for payments for their articles. The code could also require the tech companies to provide advance notice of changes to algorithmic ranking and presentation of news, and provide readers’ data to publishers.

In response, Google AUNZ managing director Mel Silva argued the draft code would provide a “dramatically” worse Google Search and YouTube, repeating warnings that the move could put Google’s free services at risk in Australia.

“The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses - news media businesses - over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business,” Silva says in the letter.

“News media businesses alone would be given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else, even when someone else provides a better result.

“We’ve always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking. The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you.”

Silva also argued against putting users’ data in the hands of “big news businesses”, at the same time the platform itself faces court proceedings over its use of user data for advertising.

Silva says Google is doing “everything we possibly can to get this proposal changed”. The open letter will be pushed on Google Search from today and on YouTube from tomorrow.

The tech company also published a separate letter from its head of YouTube Gautam Anand, targeting the video platform’s community of creators.

“Through this law, big news businesses can demand large amounts of money above and beyond what they earn on the platform, leaving fewer funds to invest in you, our creators, and the programmes to help you develop your audience in Australia and around the globe,” Anand says.

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