Google threatened, Friday, January 22, to prohibit Australian Internet users from using its search engine, if Canberra does not modify its project which aims to force the Internet giant to pay the media for their content.
The Australian government is working on a “Binding code of conduct” supposed to govern the relations between media in great financial difficulty and the giants which dominate the Internet, foremost among which Google and Facebook, which capture a significant share of advertising revenue.
This project, one of the most restrictive in the world, provides for penalties of several million euros in the event of an infringement and aims to ” news “ from Facebook and searches on Google.
But Google Australia chief executive Mel Silva told a Senate committee on Friday that the “Worst case scenario” would be that the draft code goes as is. If so, his group would be forced to suspend its research services in Australia. “If this version of the code became law, it would leave us with no real choice but to suspend Google Search in Australia”said Mme Silva.
“We do not bow to threats”
A threat to which Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison curtly responded. “Australia makes the rules as to what can be done in Australia. It’s our Parliament that decides, did he declare. People who are willing to work in this setting in Australia are welcome. But we do not bow to threats. “
The Australian initiative is being followed closely around the world at a time when the media are suffering in a digital economy where ad revenue is increasingly captured by Facebook, Google and other big tech firms. The media crisis has been compounded by the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus. In Australia dozens of newspapers have been closed and hundreds of journalists fired.
The draft code provides for Google and Facebook to remunerate Australian media, be it public group ABC or the titles of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp group, for the recovery of their content. The government, however, decided to target only Facebook and Google, but not other very popular platforms like Instagram or YouTube.
Mme Silva insisted that Google wanted to support the media, and suggested changes to the draft code which is due to go into effect this year. “There is a clear path towards the development of a fair code that we can work with, if we simply make small amendments”, did she say.