Google threatens to shut down search engine in Australia if it has to pay for media

Google claims to have no option but to withdraw Google Search from Australia if the country implements the News Media Bargaining Code. This means that Google and Facebook may have to pay for links and snippets to articles from media companies.

Google has expressed its views on the Australian bill to a Senate committee and is making it public on its blog. If passed into law, the proposal would leave Google with no option but to stop Google Search in the country, said Mel Silva, managing director of Google Australia. She says this is a worst-case scenario.

The News Media Bargaining Code is a code of conduct that Australia may adopt that will allow media companies to negotiate fees with Google and Facebook for posting their news on their platforms. Google and Facebook must also report changes to their algorithms that affect news and must share data collected through interaction with news. The code could eventually apply to more tech companies.

According to Google, the code of conduct is ‘unworkable’. This would force Google to pay for links and snippets and “break the operation of search engines at a fundamental level.” Google does not report knowing what does and does not fall within the definition of news and that paying for links and snippets undermines the principle of an open internet. If Google has to warn media companies fourteen days in advance about algorithm changes, that would penalize other sites, the argument goes on.

Facebook must also appear before the Australian committee on Friday. According to The Guardian, that company is calling for a period of six months to negotiate with the media companies before the code of conduct would be introduced. Facebook calls the code “complex, unpredictable and unworkable.”

Update, 09:20: In France, after many months of negotiations, Google reached an agreement with the media industry on Thursday for compensation for neighboring rights on published news. Google will enter into individual license agreements with press releases that will allow news to be directly incorporated into Google’s News Showcase, which will provide readers with access to rich content, not just snippets. The difference with Australia is, among other things, that news is more clearly defined: Google refers to criteria such as the contribution to political and general information, the daily volume of publications and the monthly internet audience.