Google has today announced an updated statement regarding the News Media Bargaining Code, ahead of the final review of the new code Law in front of a Senate Committee. Google Australia’s head, Mel Silva, is doubling down on the code’s potential to change how free search engines such as Google, and the open internet function will function going ahead, should the new bargaining code come into law.
In the statement, Silva states that “If the Code became law today, it would break the way Google Search works undermining the benefits of the internet for millions of Australians, from small business owners across the country, to literally anyone trying to find information online.”
Silva further states that search engines such as Google, alongside the internet as a whole, are built on the ability to link someone to a website for free, with most businesses welcome the fact that people can find them in search results — and if they don’t, they can choose not to be found. It takes a few clicks to opt-out.
However, the code will effectively throw this system out overnight, forcing Google to pay “selected publishers” for those links. Not for the article itself: just for the link that pops up in your results, and the brief description underneath it.
Silva does point out that with this law, it basically forces Google to instead, going forward, force it to pay to provide links for the first time in its history, which they believe is a slippery slope.
With this new code, Google believes it will dismantle a free and open service that’s been built to serve everyone, and replace it with one where links come at a price, and where the Government would give a handful of news businesses an advantage over everybody else.
Google has stated that as part of its submission, that it is proposing to reach deals to pay publishers through Google News Showcase, a program that they have stated will invest AU$1.3 billion in globally over the next three years to help news businesses publish and promote their stories online—paying for their editorial expertise and beyond-the-paywall access to their journalism, rather than for links.
It points out that with Google News Showcase, it has doubled the number of publications that are part of the program globally to more than 400 news organisations which include some Australian news websites and providers.
Google Australia believe that its News Showcase is the right solution for negotiating payments to publishers under the Code, as it believes it offers a fair and practical way forward, meets the original goals of the law, and helps secure a strong future for Australian news.
We have previously come out against the News Media Bargaining Code, and still have significant reservations about the path that the code is taking. It is selective in its application, favours large incumbent media giants, provides unreasonable access to these companies to changes in the search algorithm and fundamentally goes against the principles of a free and open internet.
While we are never going to defend Facebook, and have our own issue with Google’s reach and scope, this is not the solution. A fair code would apply to everyone who legitimately covers news in Australia, wouldn’t give special access just to media to how search works and when it’s changing, and would be based on a mutual value model. The Australian code does not of this.
If anyone would like to make a submission to the final review can do so via the Parliamentary of Australia website here. Submissions are due by 18th January 2021.
You can read Google’s full statement here.