Google threatens to block search engine in Australia

Google has said it will block its search engine in Australia if the government goes ahead with a new code that will make it pay for content from media companies.

Australia is introducing a mandatory code of conduct called the News Media Bargaining Code which has been developed to address bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media and digital platforms, specifically Google and Facebook.

At a public hearing of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, which is reviewing the proposed new law, Google Australia’s managing director Mel Silva said: “Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk 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 that in its current form the code is “unworkable” and that if it became law it would impact not just Google but small publishers, small businesses, and the 19 million Australians that use its service.

“There is a way forward that allows Google to pay publishers for value, without breaking Google Search and our business in Australia,” she added.

The Google MD identified the requirement to pay for links and snippets in Search as the most critical area of concern.

She warned that this would set an “untenable precedent” for the tech giant and the digital economy, claiming that this requirement is not compatible with how search engines work.

In response to Google’s comments on the new code, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison told reporters that Australia doesn’t respond to “threats.”

Earlier this week the US government asked Australia to scrap the mandatory code and replace it with a voluntary one.

The news comes just a day after Google signed a digital story rights deal with French publishers.

The deal covers remuneration under French law and seeks to address EU copyright laws.

The approximate value of the deal and how much each publisher will get per article has not been revealed.

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