Though Google was the most valuable brand in the world in 2017 (surpassed by Amazon), it has received significant criticism involving issues such as privacy concerns, tax avoidance, antitrust, censorship, and search neutrality.
Google has announced it is considering pulling out its search engine from Australia, following a law dispute with the country’s government. The projected law says that Google has to share royalties with news outlets since Australian users find articles through the search engine.
According to Google Australia managing director, the laws are “unworkable,” and the company will be pushed to stop making Google Search available in the country. Lawmakers accused Google of “blackmail,” and senators went even further, saying if Australia manages to pull this off, “this is going to go worldwide.”
The government has argued that since people use Google (and Facebook) to read the news, tech platforms should pay a “fair” price for journalism. One of every eight searches on Google Australia is news-related (that’s 12.5%), and the Australian print market has seen a 75% decline in advertising revenue in the past 15 years.
Also, 81% of all money spent on digital advertising in the news industry goes to Google and Facebook, BBC reported. “Number of outlets” in Australia have been forced to close, while Google generated $4 billion income from Australia while paying just $45 million (slightly over 1.1%) in tax.
Google has already confirmed it has done some A/B testing with 1% of its Australian users. The experiment blocked Australian news sites from the search engine, but the results have not been announced. The US company has also cited its Google News platform as evidence it supports journalism.
The Australian prime minister said that Microsoft was confident that it could fill the void if Google carried out its threat to remove its search engine from Australia. A Google executive told a Senate hearing that it would likely make its search engine unavailable in Australia if the government went ahead with plans to make tech giants pay for news content.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had since spoken to Microsoft chief executive about its search engine Bing filling the space. “I can tell you, Microsoft’s pretty confident that Australians would not be worse off”, Morrison told the National Press Club of Australia. “These are big technology companies and what’s important to Australia, I think, is that we set the rules that are right for our people,” Morrison said. “Having a news environment in this country that is one that is sustainable and is supported commercially, then this is vital to how democracies function,” he added. Although Bing is Australia’s second most popular search engine, it takes only 3.7 per cent of the market share whereas Google says it takes 95%, the Australian newspaper reported.
The mandatory code of conduct proposed by the government aims to make Google and Facebook pay Australian media companies fairly for using news content the tech giants siphon from news sites. Google has faced pressure from authorities elsewhere to pay for news. It also signed a deal with a group of French publishers paving the way for the company to make digital copyright payments. Under the agreement, Google will negotiate individual licensing deals with newspapers, with payments based on factors such as the amount published daily and monthly internet site traffic. But Google is resisting the Australian plan because it would have less control over how much it would have to pay. Under the Australian system, if an online platform and a news business can’t agree on a price for news, an arbitration panel will make a binding decision on payment.
Morrison said he would like to see more alignment between the world’s economies on such antitrust and competition policy issues. What are your views on this? Comment down below and let us know if you would use bing as a replacement for Google.