Google Has “No Real Choice” But To Disable Search In Australia If Media Code Legislation Is Passed

Portrait of Google Australia MD Melanie Silva, photographed at the Sydney Google Offices. Tuesday 29th January 2019. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 190129
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Google Australia has sensationally threatened to withdraw its Search offering from the Australian market.

Speaking this morning during a Senate hearing about the proposed News Media Bargaining Code, Google Australia managing director Mel Silva [pictured] reinforced the company’s stance.

“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.

Explaining the decision, Silva said it was based on the fact the proposed code would effectively break the way that search works.

“Our ability to offer the search service to our users is supported by a business model and that’s not something that we have ever denied… Any rational business would look that piece of legislation and evaluate the technical and operational risk, and financial risk associated with it,” she said.

“This provision in the code would set an untenable precedent for our businesses and the digital economy. It’s not compatible with how search engines work or how the internet works.

“It’s not a threat, it’s a reality,” Silva added.

“Not opposed” to a code

Silva again pointed to the “one-sided” arbitration process proposed under the code as a significant source of concern.

Additionally, Google has voiced its concern around a provision in the code which would require Google to give news organisations 14 days’ notice of any algorithmic changes.

Silva maintained Google’s previous position – that it is not opposed to a code, but will not agree to the legislation as it stands.

“We have a workable solution, Senator, and I think we can get there. We’re not opposed to a code, we’re not opposed to paying publishers, the details matter,” she said.

“We’re working on obviously a number of scenarios… And the hardest financial risk for us is the inability to calculate the outcome from open ended, and one sided arbitrations.”

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