On 17 August 2020, Google posted an open letter to Australians in which the company claims “the way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk from new regulation.” The letter deals with the proposed News Media Bargaining Code. The search engine and tech giant says the proposed code would force Google to provide Australians with a worse Google Search and YouTube. The letter says that it could lead to users’ data being handed over to big news businesses and would put free services Australians use at risk.
In its reply, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission said Google’s letter contains misinformation. The AC&CC is the regulatory agency that released the draft News Media Bargaining Code. Google will not be required to charge Australians for its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, said the agency in its response. It is up to Google if it wants to charge readers.
Also, Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses, the AC&CC said in its response. Again it is up to Google if it chooses to share additional data with publishers. The draft code will allow Australian news businesses to negotiate fair payment for journalists’ work that is included in Google services, according to the AC&CC.
[Google’s] Open letter to Australians
We need to let you know about new Government regulation that will hurt how Australians use Google Search and YouTube.
A proposed law, the News Media Bargaining Code, would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia.
The way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk from new regulation
You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful to you. We could no longer guarantee that under this law. The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses – news media businesses – over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business. News media businesses alone would be given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else, even when someone else provides a better result. We’ve always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking. The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you.
Your Search data may be at risk
You trust us with your data and our job is to keep it safe. Under this law, Google has to tell news media businesses “how they can gain access” to data about your use of our products. There’s no way of knowing if any data handed over would be protected, or how it might be used by news media businesses.
Hurting the free services you use
We deeply believe in the importance of news to society. We partner closely with Australian news media businesses — we already pay them millions of dollars and send them billions of free clicks every year. We’ve offered to pay more to license content. But rather than encouraging these types of partnerships, the law is set up to give big media companies special treatment and to encourage them to make enormous and unreasonable demands that would put our free services at risk.
This law wouldn’t just impact the way Google and YouTube work with news media businesses — it would impact all of our Australian users, so we wanted to let you know. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to get this proposal changed so we can protect how Search and YouTube work for you in Australia and continue to build constructive partnerships with news media businesses — not choose one over the other.
You’ll hear more from us in the coming days — stay tuned.
Mel Silva, Managing Director, on behalf of Google Australia