Google Threatens To Shut Down Search Engine In Australia If Compelled To Pay Publishers For Information

Top line

Google has threatened to disable its search functionality in Australia, while Facebook threatened to ban news content from its platform if the government doesn’t back off its plans to get tech giants to pay media for their content. This is one of the most dramatic escalations of ongoing operations around the world to regulate big tech.

Google has threatened to pull its search engine out of Australia because of a new law requiring payment … [+] Publishers for their news content.

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Key factors

The proposed law would require Google and Facebook to negotiate content with local news organizations, with a government-appointed arbitrator making decisions if an agreement cannot be reached.

Mel Silva, executive director of Google Australia, said Australia’s proposed “media negotiation code” is “impractical” in its current form, undermines the rationale of “full linkage between websites” and poses “unmanageable financial and operational risk” to Google’s Australians dar operations.

“If this version of the code were to become law, we would have no choice but to make Google search unavailable in Australia,” Silva said in a Senate hearing on Friday.

Australian lawmakers were unfazed by the tech giant’s ultimatum, accusing it of “blackmail” and bullying in order to find his own way.

“Let me be clear: Australia sets our rules for things you can do in Australia,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said later that day in a withered counter-argument.

“People who want to work with it in Australia are very welcome,” he said, adding, “But we don’t respond to threats.”

Key background

The code, designed to help a troubled local media industry that has accused big platforms of profiting from their work without paying for it, was developed by Australian competition watchdog ACCC after talks broke down between it and the tech companies. If they passed, Google and Facebook would be forced to negotiate and share their news content income with publishers. Targeted exclusively, Facebook and Google both argue that news agencies are already benefiting from the referrals and clicking on their websites that their platforms enable. The US government has tried to intervene on behalf of the tech giants and has urged the Australian government to work towards developing a “voluntary code”. The code wrongly targets two US companies to their “clear disadvantage”.

Crucial quote

“[The code] That would be a bad result not only for us but also for Australians, the media community and small businesses using Google search, ”said Silva.


Google agreed to pay French publishers for their news on Thursday after the country’s competition authority issued a decision making it mandatory last year. Google said it would negotiate individual licenses with members of a media lobby group after months of negotiations. Forbes reached out to Google to comment on the dramatically different results in Australia and France on a similar topic.

further reading

Google threatens to remove search if Australian range deepens (Bloomberg)

The US government is urging Australia to abolish proposed laws to make Facebook and Google pay for news (ABC News).

Comments are closed.