Google in Australia under fire for omitting news sites from search results

Google is under fire in Australia after it banned local news media from search results and Google News as an ‘experiment’. Google did this after the Australian government proposed to require Facebook and Google to pay for showing local news.

Google states that it ran “a number of experiments” in Australia that reached about one percent of search engine users in Australia. Those experiments focused on banning certain Australian commercial news sites from search results and news. Google calls it an “algorithm tweak” and says it does “thousands of these kinds of experiments a year.”

In April 2020, the Australian government proposed a law aimed at tackling the power of Google and Facebook to spread news. The law states that Google and Facebook must meet with Australian news media to pay for the display of news content on their platforms. The bill is currently being considered by a Senate committee.

Spain attempted something similar in 2014 by demanding copyright revenue from Google for showing Spanish media news in Google News. In response, Google pulled the plug on the Spanish version of Google News. French authorities last year stated that Google must pay for news snippets, after which the company removed French publishers from Google News. In Germany, Brazil and Canada, among others, Google is in talks with media companies to pay for the use of content that is normally behind a paywall.

Critics say that Google wants to show how powerful it is with the experiment in Australia. “Google shows how easily it can effectively wipe out Australian news media that are falling out of favor from the internet,” a spokesperson for Nine, the publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald, told The Guardian. “This is a chilling illustration of Google’s dominance.”