Google threatens to block Australians over media law

Published January 23, 2021
Mel Silva, right, the managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, appears via a video link during a Senate inquiry into a mandatory code of conduct proposed by the government at Parliament House in Canberra on Friday. — AP
Mel Silva, right, the managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, appears via a video link during a Senate inquiry into a mandatory code of conduct proposed by the government at Parliament House in Canberra on Friday. — AP

SYDNEY: Google threatened on Friday to block Australians from using its search service unless the government changed landmark legislation to make the internet giant pay news outlets for their content.

Google Australia’s managing director Mel Silva warned a Senate committee in Canberra that the ‘world-first’ media law was “unworkable” and would undermine the functioning of the internet.

“If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Silva said, the first time the company has made such a threat after months of difficult negotiations over the draft law.

The legislation was introduced last year to force Google and Facebook to pay local media organisations to host news content or face millions of dollars in fines, in one of the most aggressive moves globally to check the power of the US tech giants.

Under the laws, the firms would be required to compensate Australian media outlets, ranging from Rupert Murdoch’s giant News Corp to public broadcasters ABC and SBS, for publishing snippets of their content in search results.

The most controversial part of the law would require Google and Facebook to enter mandatory arbitration with media companies if they cannot reach agreement over the value of their content within three months.

The arbiter would then choose between the payment proposal put forward by a news outlet and that coming from the tech firm.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2021

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