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Google threatens to shut search engine in Australia if forced to pay for news

10:39 AM Jan 22, 2021 |

Google on Friday said that it would block its search engine in Australia if the government went ahead with plans to make tech giants pay for news content.

According to a report by Reuters, Australia is on course to pass laws that would make the Big Tech giants negotiate payments with local publishers and broadcasters for content. If Tech giants - like Google and Facebook - can't strike a deal, a government-appointed arbitrator will decide the price.

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Mel Silva, Managing Director of Google Australia and New Zealand, appeared before a public hearing of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee that is reviewing a proposed new law called the News Media Bargaining Code.

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She said that in its current form, the Code remains unworkable and if it became a law it would hurt not just Google, but small publishers, small businesses, and the millions of Australians that use our services every day.

"Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia," Silva told the panel.

Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which drafted the law, suggested last year that this shouldn't affect Google's search business.

"Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so," the ACCC had said. The proposed News Media Bargaining Code law is currently in draft and targets Facebook and Google.

Meanwhile, Facebook has also threatened to block its news from being shared in Australia. Silva told the committee that withdrawing our services from Australia is the last thing that "I or Google want to have happen - especially when there is another way forward".

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison quickly hit back, saying "we don't respond to threats." "Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia," Morrison told reporters in Brisbane.

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