Could you ever picture your life without Google? From mapping your route through Google Maps to using the search engine to instantly access crucial information with the click of a button, a world without Google is pretty hard to imagine. Unfortunately for Australia, this could soon become a reality.
Google is currently threatening to pull its services from Australia after the Australian government proposed a mandatory code of conduct on tech companies that use other media companies’ content. Its rules would require Google and Facebook to compensate Australian media companies for the news content they siphon from news sites. Google fired back against the new proposed rules, with Mel Silva, Google Australia’s managing director, testifying that the code’s “biased arbitration model” would pose unmanageable financial and operational risks for Google.
“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to search and 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,” she said.
Silva further explained that “the latest version of the Code requires Google to pay to link to news sites, breaking a fundamental principle of how the web works and setting an untenable precedent for our business, the internet, and the digital economy. This is not just Google’s view. Many other respected voices have raised similar concerns in their submissions to the Senate Committee.”
Facebook is one of the other internet giants Silva referred to that opposes the new code of conduct. Like Google, Facebook has threatened to remove news stories from Facebook in Australia, describing the number of deals it would have to make under the new rules as “unworkable.”
“We don’t respond to threats,” warned Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in response.
If Google follows through on its threat, this would set a massive precedent that would dramatically alter the internet worldwide.
However, it may not come down to this, as Silva proposed a compromise with Australia that would involve Google paying news publishers for the value they add, but not under the new rules that Australia has proposed, which would include payments for links and snippets.
“We feel there is a workable path forward,” Silva said.
In fact, Google went ahead last week and launched its own news platform in Australia that provides users with news content it has paid for. Google said in a statement that it looked forward to continuing to strike agreements with more Australian publishers.
Whether Australia will scrap the code of conduct and move forward under Google’s terms is yet to be known.