By Mike Canavan
Google has been told to “stop the scare tactics” and negotiate a fair agreement with media companies, with the tech giant accused of spreading fear in an attempt to ward off regulation.
The call came in an open letter from the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology and followed a decision by the search giant, to lobby the independent media, to ask users of Google and YouTube to lobby Australia’s competition watchdog.
Whenever you open the Google search engine, this open letter to Australians from Google’s managing director Mel Silva pops up below the search bar.
OPEN LETTER TO AUSTRALIANS FROM GOOGLE
We need to let you know about new Government regulation that will hurt how Australians use Google Search and YouTube.
A proposed law, the News Media Bargaining Code, would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia.
The way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk from new regulation.
You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful to you. We could no longer guarantee that under this law. The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses – news media businesses – over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business. News media businesses alone would be given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else, even when someone else provides a better result. We’ve always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking. The proposed changes are not fair, and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you.
Your Search data may be at risk
You trust us with your data and our job is to keep it safe. Under this law, Google has to tell news media businesses “how they can gain access” to data about your use of our products. There’s no way of knowing if any data handed over would be protected, or how it might be used by news media businesses.
Hurting the free services, you use
We deeply believe in the importance of news to society. We partner closely with Australian news media businesses — we already pay them millions of dollars and send them billions of free clicks every year. We’ve offered to pay more to license content. But rather than encouraging these types of partnerships, the law is set up to give big media companies special treatment and to encourage them to make enormous and unreasonable demands that would put our free services at risk.
This law wouldn’t just impact the way Google and YouTube work with news media businesses — it would impact all of our Australian users, so we wanted to let you know. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to get this proposal changed so we can protect how Search and YouTube work for you in Australia and continue to build constructive partnerships with news media businesses — not choose one over the other.
You’ll hear more from us in the coming days — stay tuned.
Mel Silva, Managing Director, on behalf of Google Australia
The new regulations would force Google and Facebook to negotiate with media companies and pay for the journalism they currently use for free.
“Google’s response to the ACCC’s attempt to level the playing field and support quality Australian media underlines exactly why the ACCC code is fundamental to a robust media landscape in Australia,” Peter Lewis, director of the Centre for Responsible Technology, said.
“Not only has Google used its immense power and reach to directly message Australian users with an attack on the ACCC process, it has misrepresented key facts in a way that appears designed to spread fear.”
The letter says the impact of Google’s business model on Australia’s media and national life has been “disastrous”.
“You have exploited your understanding of our personal interests and behaviours to draw advertisers away from traditional media, destroying the business model that supported independent journalism for more than 150 years,” the letter reads.
“In the past decade more than 5000 Australian journalists have lost their jobs as your share of advertising has grown and grown. You have also been happy to use stories written by those journalists as if they were your own work, deriving value from something that isn’t yours.
“Australians embrace innovators, but we don’t like bullies. If you want our ongoing support, we encourage you to make it mutual and reach a fair arrangement.”
On Monday Google managing director Mel Silva posted an open letter addressed to all Australians, foreshadowing that news companies would make “enormous and unreasonable demands” that would put the future of Google Search and YouTube at risk. “You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful. We could no longer guarantee that under this law,” she said.
“We’re going to do everything we possibly can to get this proposal changed so we can protect how Search and YouTube work for you in Australia.”