Google threatens to disable Search in Australia; Facebook follows suit
Google has threatened to disable its search engine in Australia in an attempt to stop the government from passing a law that will force it to pay local media outlets for sharing their news content. The law will mandate Big Tech giants to negotiate a revenue sharing deal with Australian publishing and broadcasting outlets in order to use their content.
The proposed law doesn't target Google alone. Facebook will also have to pay Australian media outlets for sharing their news content. Mark Zuckerberg's social media platform has also retaliated by threatening to remove the news feed for its Australian users in defiance. The move will affect Australia's 19 million Google users and 17 million Facebook users, out of a total population of 26 million.
"The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to search and coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk is this version of code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia."
Meanwhile, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison asserted, "We don't respond to threats," in response to Google and Facebook insisting that they would pull the plug on major parts of their services than conform to the new revenue sharing regulations. Morrison issued a stern statement reminding the Big Tech duo that Australia still makes the rules deciding how these companies do business in the country.
"Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That's done in our parliament. It's done by our government. And that's how things work here in Australia and people who want to work with that, in Australia, you're very welcome," he added.
Further, the US government responded to the regulatory spat by imploring Australia to "suspend" the proposed law. Seeking a middle ground, US trade representatives Daniel Bahar and Karl Ehlers suggested the Australian government to "further study the markets, and if appropriate, develop a voluntary code". The US representatives also warned Australia of "harmful outcomes" while raising concerns about the country's international trade obligations.
The legislation is currently being debated by the Australian Senate, but it enjoys bipartisan support and is expected to be voted on, and most likely passed, early this year. Australian print media has recorded a 75 percent decline in advertising revenue since 2005, which had led to several news outlets either shutting down or resorting to job cuts and downscaling of operations.