News Media Bargaining Code Will Hurt Small Businesses: Google

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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Small businesses will be a victim of the government’s proposed News Media Bargaining Code, according to Google.

In a new blogpost addressing the tech giant’s concerns about the rule, Google suggested such a code could stifle Australia’s economic recovery.

“The draft code affects small businesses because it would weaken Google services like Search and YouTube. These services created more than 130 million connections between business and potential customers in 2019, and contributed to the $35 billion in benefits we generated for more than 1.3 million businesses across the country,” said Google Australia VP Mel Silva [feature image].

“But they rely on Search and YouTube working the same for everyone—so that people can trust that the results they see are useful and authoritative, and businesses know they’re on a level playing field.”

Silva added that if the draft code is made into law, Google will be forced to give news businesses information about its search algorithms, which would allow these publishers “to feature more prominently in search results at the expense of other businesses, website owners and creators”.

She gave the example of a cafe owner that had managed to secure the top spot in Search results for a particular query.

Under the proposed code, a news business could hypothetically look at this algorithm and manipulate its content to appear above the cafe.

Silva again maintained “we don’t oppose a code governing the relationship between digital platforms and news businesses”, but said the proposed regulation could create a bad precedent.

“Most businesses support sensible regulation—but not heavy-handed rules that favour one group of companies over all others,” she said.

And while both Google and Facebook have been campaigning heavily to change the code, ACCC chair Rod Sims recently told a panel hosted by The Australia Institute that the competition watchdog would not be backing down.

“The code will change. It’s a draft. A draft is meant to elicit comment and we’ve got a lot of comment,” he said.

“But the core of the code can’t change. You need an arbitration mechanism. You need a non-discrimination clause. They are the bits of glue that hold the code together that make it workable.”

 

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