Google has threatened to disable Search in Australia if it is forced to pay for news. As reported by Sydney Morning Herald Google will walk away from $4 billion in revenue if they follow through with the threat.
Google has faced a number of problems over recent weeks regarding the paying for news. It has had to strike a deal with French publishers thanks to new EU laws requiring it to pay for news. The laws force Google to negotiate with publishers but the deals themselves are confidential so we cannot find out the details.
Issues with free news and Google has had issues with free news from publishers for years now though. Way back in 2017 the company had to end its ‘first click free’ program allowing Search users free access to subscription articles.
As reported by Engadget Google’s managing director in Australia, Mel Silva made a strong statement to the Senate. She said, “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”.
Google threatens to cut off Australia from Search
Whether Google will actually follow through with this threat is another issue. Australia is proposing to bring in a new media bargaining code. Similar to EU laws this would force Google to negotiate with publishers over paying them for news previews.
Experts believe that this is not an idle threat as Google does not want to set a global president about paying for news. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would not respond to the threats. Some news media outlets responded strongly to suggestions that their content did not add value to the platforms.
Originally Australia had plans to make payment negotiations voluntary. However, after seeing the effect of the pandemic switched plans to make payments mandatory.
Google responded originally back in 2020 with a letter suggesting its services would be at risk. The tech giant has also abandoned plans to bring in its curated News Showcase in Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s statement was characteristically punchy. He said, “people who want to work with that, in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats”.
Silva responded that her statement was not a threat but “a reality” describing disabling Search as a “worst-case scenario”.
It will be intriguing to see how this all plays out. This situation is a genuine test of just how powerful the likes of Google really are. If they can convince the Australian Government to change its plans then that would send a serious statement out.