Australia’s competition watchdog on Monday accused Google of sharing “misinformation” about a proposed law that would require the search giant to pay media companies for news content. The response comes after Google published an open letter saying that the code would “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,” Google Managing Director Mel Silva said Monday in the open letter. The search giant also has a message on its Australian homepage stating that the “way Aussies use Google is at risk” and links to its open letter.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission pushed back, saying Google won’t need to charge for use of its free services or share any additional user data with news businesses.
“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 said in its response. “The draft code will allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services.”
Google said that it never intended to charge users for its free services but that Australia’s draft code in its current form would damage Google’s products and user experiences.
“For example, the Code requires us to give all news media businesses advance notice of algorithm changes and explain how they can minimize the effects. Even assuming Google could comply with this provision, it would seriously damage our products and user experience,” said a Google spokesperson in an emailed statement Wednesday. “It would impact our ability to continue to show users the most relevant useful results on Google Search and YouTube.”
Australia introduced a draft of the News Media Bargaining Code last month. It would require digital platforms, initially Google and Facebook, to negotiate with media outlets and pay for news content that appears on their services. The draft law also states that Google would need to give media outlets notice of changes to its algorithms that could impact items like referral traffic or search ranking.
The ACCC said discussions about the draft will take place until Aug. 28, with a final version coming “shortly after.”