We have been monitoring the Australian Federal Government’s attempt to regulate the commercial relationship between Google and large media companies for a while now. To say we’re against the move and see it as an outright attack on the open web in Australia and, through extension, Ausdroid itself would be putting it mildly: this is a bad law written by people clearly motivated by special interest lobbying.
Yesterday Google’s Managing Director of Google Australia Mel Silva wrote an open letter to the Australia People warning both citizens and Aussie YouTube creators alike that the very nature of news and media on the web served in Australia is under attack. Yes, some of the framings of the arguments are of course written to put Google in a positive light. Yes, this is a nuanced and complex issue.
Here’s the thing, given a choice of putting our trust and faith in either Google or the large media conglomerates that dominate the major news landscape in Australia we choose Google 100% of the time. As such we’re willing to favour Google’s dystopian view of the Australia regulations.
In short, Google has a couple of messages for all Australians should the new News Media Bargaining Code be enforced. Firstly, Google will be required to share with “News Media businesses” (ie. large media corporations) details of how the Google search algorithm works — this will allow organisations with the resources to undermine the validity of the organic search and product content, regardless of worth, originality or validity that will naturally float to the top of the search rankings.
This will effectively kill the usefulness of the search algorithm for finding relevant and legitimate news in Australia. It will also further empower the entrenched old media organisations as the dominant voice in all Australian news and possible drive smaller independent outlets, like Ausdroid, to the brink or out of business.
Secondly, Google claims they will be required to tell news media businesses “how they can gain access” to data about Australia’s use of its products. I would never consent to any large media conglomerate having ANY data about how I use the web, what I search for, or what I am doing. Just because I click a link in Google news and end up at a website of a media dinosaur does not mean I am consenting to them having any data about me.
The ACCC has directly called out this comment as non-factual stating that “Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so.” The ACCC immediately and directly responding is a string statement that the regulator feels Google is not acting in good faith in this claim.
Lastly, Google has made it clear that for their operations there is not a huge economic value in the Australian news business to them. They have, however, paid significant amounts to news outlets via AdSense and media initiative funding, not to mention driving a vast amount of free organic search traffic to Australian media outlets free of charge.
The open letter from Google states that the regulation “would put the free services you use at risk in Australia”. The ACCC in their retort has interpreted this statement as Google claiming they would charge users to use Google’s previously free service. We think that’s not what Google is saying, this feels more like a threat to pull News from Google Australia.
Previously they have hinted that they may have to pull out of the Australian News market if this regulation came into effect, and don’t think they won’t — they have done it in other markets when their digitally inept Governments tried the same sort of big business protectionism. Pulling all news from Google search and Google News in Australia would effectively kill almost the entire small and independent news organisation, yes… like Ausdroid.
Here’s the real killer, if Google pulled news in Australia, the only thing left standing would be the draconian and out of touch old-world news media that is driving the entire political agenda. So either way, they win if this legalisation comes in, either the can game the system, get unfair access to data and information, or they starve the Australian media landscape of digital income and fill the void.
We are not advocating that the answer is to do nothing, but we are strongly saying that introducing a regulation that overly favours the entrenched media conglomerates over smaller and independent voices is certainly not the solution. With more voices we get more diversity, do you want players like Murdoch controlling all the voices in your news?
Google Australia has promised to provide more details soon, but it’s looking more and more like Australia is going to be embattled in a fight for the very existence of free and open media. It’s not hard to foresee a moment in the not too distant future where all Australians are going to have to fight against this or face the consequences of a monopolistic media landscape in the not too distant future.