Google has made our lives a lot easier. To be brutally honest, one just can’t function with Google nowadays, it literally has answers to all your problems. Looking for the perfect restaurant for your date? Google it! Looking for a tailor? Just Google it! But, can you imagine your life without Google? Seems like a joke right? After all, Google can never go anywhere! That is the inquisitive reality Australians have been anticipating since Google threatened to shut its universal search engine in their country last month.Even, recently Google temporarily blocked certain Australian media content to some users in the country. Google, though, announced it as a test run but it was definitely a show of force. Let us now dive deep into this matter and get to know the root cause behind it.
Australia is all set to introduce a law that would force companies like Google and Facebook to pay media companies for their news content. On July 31, 2020, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or ACCC released its draft News Media Bargaining Code. It has been two years since the Australian Government is working to incorporate the News Media Bargaining Code.
Now, let’s talk about the News Media Bargaining Code in detail. This Code will be applicable to Google and Facebook only for the time being, other companies will be added later. Google and Facebook now would have to pay news websites whose links are showing up in their platforms, including Facebook News Feed, Instagram, Facebook News Tab, Google Search, Google News and Google Discover. The aim behind this was to regulate negotiations, mostly between the digital and e-commerce companies and the new start-ups. After a lot of negotiations, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission passed the code which was a compulsion to be followed by all the digital and tech companies. Now, these companies needed to inform the publishers or sources of these content about any changes in the search feeds. They needed to pay these companies for the content.
But, How do you think Google would have reacted? Let’s get to know that as well.
Google said that, while it supports the idea, the way the Government is trying to achieve this goal would break the way Google Search works. Google argued that the News Media Bargaining Code would “force” the company to give an unfair advantage to news media business. In a parliamentary meeting, on January 22, 2021, Google said that “no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.” The law could “put our free services at risk” should bigger news companies start to make onerous demands.
Google now threatened to remove its search engine from Australia if the new digital news code, that makes tech giants pay for content, comes into action and is enforced as a law by the Government. Facebook too has threatened to remove news from its feed for all Australians. Google also blocked 1% of the Australian users from viewing local news, stories in their searches.
However, all of these have not deterred the Australian Government which has said it does not respond well to threats. Australia is still firmly standing with its code and is hoping to soon turn that into a law.
Can all this really set a global precedent? Australian Senator told Google :”It’s going to go worldwide. Are you going to pull out of every market, are you?” But, Google and Facebook are based in the US and the US government has urged Australia not to “rush” the new law, warning that it is “extraordinary” and may have “long-lasting negative consequences”. This may now even lead to a digital crisis and strained relations between the US and Australia.
But, will Google really leave Australia? Google has left a country before due to local laws. In 2014, the company shut down Google news in Spain in response to a law forcing Google to pay to the publishers and source of the media and content. Google has been largely unavailable in mainland China since a row in 2010 over alleged Chinese hacking. There is also a difference- but similar-row happening in Europe.
But in France the scenario was different. Google agreed to pay the French Publishers for their news after the country’s competition regulator issued a ruling required to do so last year. Google said it would negotiate individual licenses with members of a media lobby group after months of negotiations.
If Google really removes it’s facilities from the worldwide market, how would the world function? The Youtubers, influencers and all the digital workers would literally lose their jobs! Besides that, our lives would be difficult. When searching for anything, we would have to refer to boring books. It won’t be as simple as Googling it!
But honestly, it’s a wait and watch game. Google has a near-monopoly status in the search market, and that the government’s main reason for the law is that it wants Google and Facebook to do “satisfactory commercial agreements” with australian news media businesses. Analytics say that the law in Australia could set the precedence for regulators in other countries in dealing with Big Tech. What do you think? Should Australia go ahead with this code?