Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it would block its search engine in Australia if the government continued with a new code that would force it and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for the right to use their content.
Google’s threat escalates a battle with publishers like News Corp, which is closely monitored around the world. The search giant had warned that its 19 million Australian users would be exposed to degraded search and YouTube experiences if the new code was enforced.
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Australia is on track to pass laws prompting tech giants to negotiate payments with local publishers and broadcasters for content included in search results or news feeds. If they cannot reach an agreement, a government-appointed arbitrator decides the price.
“Combined with the unmanageable financial and operational risk, if this version of the Code were allowed, it would give us no choice but to stop making Google search available in Australia,”
Silva did not mention YouTube in prepared comments.
Google’s comments attracted a scathing reprimand from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said the country is making its rules for “things you can do in Australia.”
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“People who want to work with it in Australia are very welcome. But we do not respond to threats,” Morrison told reporters.
Google has called the code too broad and said that outside of audits, offering even a limited search tool would be too risky. The company does not advertise sales from Australia, but search ads are its largest contributor to revenue and profits globally.
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The U.S. government this week asked Australia to scrap the proposed laws, which have broad political support, and suggested that Australia pursue a voluntary code instead.
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Australia announced the legislation last month after a study found that Google and social media giant Facebook had too much market power in the media industry, a situation they said posed a potential threat to a well-functioning democracy.
Google’s threat to limit its services in Australia came just hours after the internet giant reached a content payment deal with some French news publishers as part of a $ 1.3 billion three-year push to support publishers.
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Google’s testimony “is part of a pattern of threatening behavior that is cool to anyone who values our democracy,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Australia Institute’s Center for Responsible Technology.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Byron Kaye and Gerry Doyle)